Oral Pathology

Southern Maine Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery is proud to be specialists using the latest advanced technology for the diagnosis and treatment of Oral Conditions, in an effort to ensure the optimum level of health care for our patients. We are especially concerned about oral cancer, and look for it in every patient that we see.

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 pathological process or cancerous growth:

  • Reddish patches (erythroplasia) 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 and/or 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.

We would recommend performing an oral cancer self-examination monthly. 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 can assist you with any questions or concerns. 

Here are some important things to consider:

  • In America, one person dies of Oral Cancer every hour of every day.
  • This particular cancer has a higher mortality rate than cervical and testicular cancers. • The mortality rate of this particular cancer has not decreased in 3 decades.
  • For those victims diagnosed in the late stages, only 22% were given a 5 year survival rate
  • Only 35 % of Oral Cancer cases are diagnosed early. In these cases the survival rate increases to 80-90%.

Although tobacco and alcohol use are some major predisposing risk factors when looking for Oral Cancer, more than 20% of oral cancer victims have no such lifestyle risk factors. Studies now suggest that human papillomavirus (HPV 16/18) plays a role in more than 20% of cases.

Oral cancer risk by patient profile is as follows:

Increased risk: patients ages 18-39, sexually active patients with HPV 16/18

High Risk: patients age 40 and older; tobacco users (ages 18-39, any type within 10 years)

Highest Risk: patients age 40 and older with lifestyle risk factors (tobacco and/or alcohol use) and a previous history of oral cancer.

With these risks in mind, we have incorporated the use of the award-winning VELscope® (trademark sign), the world’s most widely used adjunctive device for the enhanced visualization of oral mucosal abnormalities, such as oral cancer or pre-malignant dysplasia (abnormal cells which can become cancerous). This system is recognized by the World Health Organization, and is the only adjunctive device cleared by the FDA.


This device, pictured above, centers around a wireless, handheld scope that uses natural tissue fluorescence to enhance the way clinicians visualize oral mucosal abnormalities that might not be apparent or even visible to the naked eye. VELscope® is similar to proven early detection procedures for other cancers such as mammography, Pap smear, and PSA. In addition, this technology is also backed by more clinical studies than any other adjunctive device for tissue fluorescence visualization. We find that using the VELscope® along with a standard oral cancer examination improves the ability to identify suspicious lesions at their earliest stages, therefore minimizing or eliminating the potentially disfiguring effects of oral cancer. This simple and painless exam could even save your life!

If you have concerns regarding your Oral Health, please contact our office immediately, at Portland Office Phone Number 207-774-2611.