Bay Area Oral & Facial Surgery
Oral & Facial Surgery
San Francisco CA

Oral Pathology


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The inside of the mouth is normally lined with a special type of skin (mucosa) that is smooth and coral pink in color. Any alteration in this appearance could be a warning sign for a pathological process. The most serious of these is oral cancer. The following can be signs at the beginning of a pathologic process or cancerous growth:

  • Reddish patches (erythroplakia) or whitish patches (leukoplakia) in the mouth.
  • A sore that fails to heal and bleeds easily.
  • A lump or thickening on the skin lining the inside of the mouth.
  • Chronic sore throat or hoarseness.
  • Difficulty in chewing or swallowing.

These changes can be detected on the lips, cheeks, palate, and gum tissue around the teeth, tongue, face and/or neck. Pain does not always occur with pathology, and curiously, is not often associated with oral cancer. However, any patient with facial and/or oral pain without an obvious cause or reason may also be at risk for oral cancer. Dr. Tom, Dr. Silva, and Dr. Connelly will recommend a biopsy if there is abnormal tissue. The sample of tissue taken, which is generally quite small, will be sent to a specialized oral pathology laboratory to render a diagnosis. Depending on the biopsy result, additional treatment may be recommended.

Biopsy surgery is quick and is easily done under local anesthesia, with or without laughing gas. Often sutures (stitches) are placed to close the small wound and discomfort is fairly minor.

We would recommend performing periodic oral cancer self-examinations, and remember that your mouth is one of your body's most important warning systems. Do not ignore suspicious lumps or sores. Please contact us so we may help because early diagnosis is critical.

New Technology for Detecting Oral Soft Tissue Pathology: The VELscope

The VELscope is a revolutionary hand-held device offering Dr. Tom, Dr. Silva, and Dr. Connelly an easy-to-use adjunctive screening instrument for the early detection of oral lesions. When used as an adjunctive aid in combination with a traditional oral cancer examination, the VELscope facilitates the early discovery and visualization of mucosal abnormalities that may be, or may lead to, oral cancer. In less than 5 minutes, the VELscope Handpiece shines a safe blue light into the oral cavity, causing the tissue to emit fluorescence. This enables Dr. Tom, Dr. Silva or Dr. Connelly to quickly differentiate between normal and abnormal tissue.