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  • Salinas, CA - 1112 Pajaro St. 93901
  • Carmel, CA - 26485 Carmel Rancho Blvd. Ste. #1 93923
  • (831) 424-2214 | Salinas, CA - 1112 Pajaro St.
  • 831-626-5900 | Carmel, CA - 26485 Carmel Rancho Blvd. Ste. #1

Oral Pathology

An oral exam is routinely performed by the dentist during the course of an initial comprehensive exam and regular check-ups. An oral cancer exam refers to the identification and management of diseases pertaining to the maxillofacial and oral regions.

The soft tissue of the mouth is normally lined with mucosa, which is special type of skin that should appear smooth in texture and pink in color. Any alteration of the color or texture of the mucosa may signal the beginning of a pathologic process. These changes may occur on the face, neck, and areas of the mouth (e.g., gums, tongue, lips, etc.). The most serious of these pathologic changes (which may or may not be painful) is oral cancer, but there are also many other common pathologic problems.

Geographic Tongue – Also known as Benign Migratory Glossitis or Erythema Migrans, is a condition where the tongue is missing papillae (small bumps) in different areas, and a map-like appearance can develop. This condition is usually seen as red well defined areas on or around the sides of the tongue. The red patches (which can look like an unsightly rash) may come and go from hours to months at a time and cause increased sensitivity to certain substances.

Median Palatal Cyst – This cyst is of developmental origin and is essentially a fluid filled skin sac. It usually appears in the middle of the palate and may cause substantial discomfort.

Hairy Tongue – An overgrowth of bacteria or a yeast infection in the mouth which can cause the tongue to appear hairy and black. This condition is usually a result of poor oral hygiene, chronic or extensive use of antibiotics, or radiation treatments to the head or neck. It is often also seen in HIV positive patients and those who are intravenous drug users. Hairy Tongue may or may not require treatment.

Treatment of Pathological Diseases

In the majority of cases, the pathological changes experienced in the oral region are uncomfortable and disfiguring, but not life threatening. However, oral cancer is on the rise (especially among men) and the chances of survival are around 80% if an immediate diagnosis is made.

Oral cancer is a general term used when referring to any type of cancer affecting the tongue, jaw, and lower cheek area. Since it is impossible for the dentist to decisively diagnose a pathological disease without taking a biopsy sample of the affected area, seeking immediate treatment when changes are first noticed might be a life and death decision. For less serious problems, there are several options available, such as:

  • Antibiotics – In the case of a bacterial infection or persistent soreness, the dentist may prescribe a dose of antibiotics to return the mucosa to its natural state. This will alleviate soreness and discomfort.
  • Diluted Hydrogen Peroxide – When poor oral hygiene is causing changes to the soft tissue, the dentist may prescribe a diluted hydrogen peroxide mouthwash. This will kill more bacteria than regular mouthwash and improve halitosis (bad breath).
  • Oral Surgery – If the patient has cysts or abnormal non-cancerous growths, the dentist may decide to completely remove them. This can improve comfort levels, alleviate breathing problems, and make speech substantially easier depending on the location of the cyst.

Oral Examinations

During the course of a regular check up, the dentist will thoroughly inspect the soft tissue of the mouth and take serious note of any changes. If there are cell changes present, the dentist will take a biopsy of the affected area and send it away to be analyzed by laboratory specialists. When definitive results are obtained, the dentist can decide on the best course of treatment.

Oral Cancer Screenings

An oral cancer screening is usually performed during a comprehensive or recall (check-up) exam. Screening is painless and only takes a few minutes. The dentist or hygienist will use a laser light to assess the soft tissue for cell changes that might be indicative of oral cancer. If such cell changes are present, a small biopsy will be taken and sent to a laboratory for review. If the biopsy indicates that oral cancer is present, an excision (removal) will generally be performed.

If you are experiencing any pain or symptoms that cause you concern, we encourage you to contact us today to schedule an appointment.

Testimonials

Dr. Wetzel is an absolutely incredible gem of a dental surgeon. In every manner of incredible he and his lovely assistant deserves major props.

I am or was a big chicken of the procedure, but based on a small Asian jaw, awful bite and one horizontally impacted wisdom tooth that was causing bone loss, and another slanted and also impacted I had to do something. Due to difficulty taking time off work I got 7 teeth taken out for braces, bite and health. I was terrified to be honest but the office is beautiful, a great place to drool all over yourself ( more on that later) and the pain is minimal considering 2 impacted wisdom teeth are difficult to manage.

I only remember talking to him and joking with him when all of a sudden my memory lapsed and I woke up feeling no pain and they were almost done. I was in disbelief but I remembered hearing about that. There is super slight soreness now 12 hours post op but it actually is better than the soreness from braces! Isn't that crazy? Lastly as someone who only had dentists aged 55 and older I can tell you don't worry. His youthful appearance belies his ability and incredible expertise. :)

Oh and a Warning! You will drool everywhere and I wish I bought a towel for that. Lol. In any case definitely come see him. The drive is worth his ability and he and his assistant is honest, intelligent, kind and super duper skilled!
Tracy is also super kind and the entire staff is great!

I will trust him not only for my first surgery but every one thereafter!

Miss W.

Great periodontist. Very professional and competent. Prices are reasonable compared to similar services elsewhere. Reception staff and nurses are very kind and takes time to explain everything and address all concerns. I highly recommend this office.

Sara G.

Dr. Wetzel is a real professional as well as a likeable person. You don't always get that in an oral surgeon. LOL. His staff is super friendly and you really feel that the whole office cares about your well being. Also, Dr. Wetzel instills me with confidence. I trust him with any procedure. So far I have had a bone graft, an extraction, and a large gum graft. I am looking toward to two dental implants and another gum graft and bone graft. You can tell he is really focused on the task at hand when he is doing a procedure and he takes surgery to the level of an art. Clearly, he has the experience and skills to improvise when he runs into snafus. I had a question about my pain after my last surgery and called his after-hours emergency number, and he called me back within 2 minutes. You can't ask for more than that. Also, if you have Delta Dental, then Tracy will lay out your whole plan for all of your work and tell you how much is covered by Delta and how much you will have left to pay. No surprises. Plus, Dr. Wetzel's new office is super cool. The design is tres chic;) I wish he did regular dentistry too.

Dr. Felicia D.

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