Oral Pathology & Diagnosis

Your oral health is closely connected to your overall well-being. Issues and problems in the mouth and teeth can be a sign of other health problems elsewhere in the body. It is important to see a dentist or oral health care professional regularly so any issues can be caught early and treated appropriately.

At Foley and Le Oral Surgery, we take oral health seriously. We provide comprehensive oral and maxillofacial pathology services to patients of all ages. Our goal is to help you maintain a healthy mouth so you can enjoy life. 

If you need oral pathology and diagnosis care, we are your oral surgeons in Boulder, CO, Longmont, CO, Louisville, CO, Broomfield, CO, and Lafayette, CO. To schedule an appointment, call (303) 444-2255. We are located at 1420 28th Street, Suite 100, Boulder, CO.

How Are Diseases in the Mouth Discovered?

Often diseases in the mouth, face, and neck region are discovered during a regular dental checkup. Your dentist or oral health care professional will examine your mouth, teeth, and gums for any abnormal findings. They will also ask you questions about your oral health history and any concerns you may have.

The inside of the mouth is usually coated with a special kind of skin (mucosa) that is smooth and light pink. A change in this appearance might be an indication of a pathological process. The pink tissue surrounding the teeth is known as gums (gingiva). Abnormal changes can occur on either the mucosa or gingiva.

The following symptoms may be signs of a pathological process or cancerous growth that should be examined by your dentist, doctor, or oral surgeon:

  • Reddish patches or white patches in the mouth
  • Dry mouth
  • Changes in taste
  • A painful or bleeding spot that does not heal
  • A lump or thickening on the inside of the mouth lining
  • Hoarseness or chronic throat soreness. Difficulty in chewing or swallowing
  • Numbness, tingling, or burning in the face, mouth, or tongue 
  • Changes in your bite. This may be accompanied by a jaw bone swelling or growth.
  • Facial swelling or a change in your appearance.
  • A growing mass in the neck that fails to resolve within 1-2 weeks.

Oral Conditions

Many different oral and maxillofacial diseases and conditions can affect your mouth, teeth, and gums. Some of these are more serious than others, but all of them should be examined by a dentist or oral health care professional to provide proper treatment.

  • Oral cancer: Oral cancer includes cancers of the lips, tongue, cheeks, gums, hard and soft palate, sinuses, and throat. Oral cancer is more common in men than women, and the risk increases with age. Cigarette smoking and heavy alcohol use are major risk factors for oral cancer. Squamous cell carcinoma is the most common type of oral cancer, making up 90% of all oral cancers.
  • Fibroma: A non-cancerous (benign) growth that consists of connective tissue and fibers. Fibromas can occur anywhere in the body, including the mouth. They are usually small and slow-growing.
  • Pyogenic granuloma: A small, round growth that consists of tissue and blood vessels. Pyogenic granulomas can occur anywhere in the body, but they are most common in the mouth, particularly on the gums. They are usually red or purple and may bleed easily.
  • Lichen planus: A chronic inflammatory condition that can affect the skin, nails, and mucous membranes. In the mouth, lichen planus typically appears as white or red spots on the inside of the cheeks, gums, or tongue.
  • Oral candidiasis (thrush): A fungal infection of the mouth. It is most common in infants, elderly adults, and people with weakened immune systems. Oral candidiasis typically appears as white or cream-colored spots on the inside of the cheeks, gums, or tongue.
  • Pemphigus Vulgaris: A rare, chronic, autoimmune disease that causes blistering and ulceration of the skin and mucous membranes. In the mouth, pemphigus vulgaris typically appears as small, round ulcers on the inside of the cheeks, gums, or tongue.
  • Burning mouth syndrome: A condition that causes a burning sensation in the mouth. It can be caused by various factors, including dry mouth, nutritional deficiencies, allergies, and psychological stress.

In addition, symptoms associated with several systemic diseases (such as diabetes, Crohn’s disease, and heart disease) may be observed in the mouth. 


While not avoidable altogether, some steps can be taken to reduce your risk of developing oral disease.

  • Maintain good oral hygiene: Brushing twice a day with a toothpaste containing fluoride, flossing daily, and using an antibacterial mouthwash.
  • See your dentist regularly: You should see your dentist at least twice a year for  cleanings and exams.
  • Quit smoking: Cigarette smoking is a major risk factor for oral cancer.
  • Limit alcohol consumption: Heavy alcohol use is a major risk factor for oral cancer.
  • Eat a healthy diet: A healthy diet helps to keep your teeth and gums healthy. Avoid sugary snacks and drinks, which can lead to tooth decay.

Oral Pathology and Diagnosis in Boulder, CO

Your oral health is important to us at Foley and Le Oral Surgery. We recommend you conduct a monthly oral cancer self-exam and schedule regular six-month checkups with your dentist. It’s important to remember that one of your body’s most vital warning systems is your mouth. Lumps and sores that are suspicious should not be neglected. If you or your dentist feel a suspicious lesion requires further evaluation, we would be happy to help you with any treatment necessary.

If you are looking for an oral surgeon in Boulder, CO, Lafayette, CO, Broomfield, CO, Louisville, Co, and Longmont, CO, visit us today. We are located at 1420 28th Street, Suite 100, Boulder, CO. Call (303) 444-2255 to schedule an appointment.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How is oral pathology important to dental hygiene?

Maintaining good oral hygiene helps to unmask potential problems early on. Seeing your dentist and hygienist regularly is a part of maintaining good oral hygiene. These dental professionals can examine and visualize areas of the mouth that may be hiding small pathology lesions.  The early identification of pathology will result in prompt and effective treatment, which can help to prevent more serious problems from developing.

Is oral pathology covered by dental insurance?

Biopsies are typically covered by dental insurance, but processing of the specimen by the pathology lab may incur a separate fee. Our team can help to navigate your insurance benefits for you. 

Does vaping cause oral cancer?

There is currently no definitive answer as to whether or not vaping causes oral cancer. However, some studies have suggested that there may be a link between the two. There is a definitive correlation between smoking and the development of oral cancer. 

Can dental x-rays show oral cancer?

Dental x-rays can sometimes show oral cancer, but they are not always effective. Oral cancer typically presents as a small, hard mass that is not always visible on x-ray. If you are concerned about the possibility of oral cancer, we recommend that you schedule an appointment with your dentist or oral surgeon.

Is oral thrush a sign of cancer?

Oral thrush is not typically a sign of cancer. However, it can sometimes be an oral manifestation or symptom of another underlying condition, such as diabetes or HIV/AIDS. If you are concerned about the possibility of oral cancer, we recommend that you schedule an appointment with your dentist or oral surgeon.

What are the symptoms of oral cancer?

The symptoms of oral cancer can vary but may include a sore that does not heal, a lump or mass in the mouth, bleeding from the mouth, numbness in the mouth, pain, and difficulty swallowing.

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