Oral Diagnosis and Biopsies
Online Dental Education Library
Our team of dental specialists and staff strive to improve the overall health of our patients by focusing on preventing, diagnosing and treating conditions associated with your teeth and gums. Please use our dental library to learn more about dental problems and treatments available. If you have questions or need to schedule an appointment, contact us.
Air abrasion - is a drill-less technique that is being used by some dentists to remove tooth decay and for other applications
Amalgam - Material made from mercury and other alloy mixtures used to restore a drilled portion of a tooth.
Anesthesia - Medications used to relieve pain.
Anterior teeth - Front teeth. Also called incisors and cuspids.
Arch - The upper or lower jaw.
Baby bottle tooth decay - Caused by sugary substances in breast milk and some juices, which combine with saliva to form pools inside the baby's mouth.
Bicuspids -Back teeth used for chewing.
Bitewings - X-rays that help a dentist diagnose cavities.
Bonding - Application of tooth-colored resin materials to the surface of the teeth.
Bridge - A fixed or removable appliance that replaces lost teeth.
Bruxism - Teeth grinding.
CAD/CAM dentistry, (Computer-Aided Design and Computer-Aided Manufacturing in dentistry), is an area of dentistry utilizing CAD/CAM technologies to produce different types of dental restorations, including crowns, crownlays, veneers, inlays and onlays, fixed bridges, dental implant restorations and orthodontic appliances.
Calculus (tartar)- Calculus is hardened plaque (a sticky substance) that has been left on the tooth for some time and is now firmly attached to the tooth surface. Calculus forms above and below the gum line and can only be removed with special dental instruments.
Canal - The narrow chamber inside the tooth's root.
Canines - Also called cuspids.
Canker sore - One that occurs on the delicate tissues inside your mouth. A canker sore is usually light-colored at its base and can have a red exterior border.
Caries - Another term for decay, which causes cavities.
Cold sore - Usually occurs on the outside of the mouth, usually on or near the nose or lips. A cold sore is contagious because it is caused by the herpes simplex virus, and it is usually painful and filled with fluid.
Composite filling - Tooth colored restorations, also known as resin fillings.
Composite resin - A tooth colored resin combined with silica or porcelain and used as a restoration material.
Contouring - The process of reshaping teeth.
Crown - An artificial cover that is placed on the top of a tooth following restoration.
Cusps - The pointed parts on top of the back teeth's chewing surface.
Cuspids - Front teeth that typically have a protruding edge.
Dentin - The tooth layer underneath the enamel.
Denture - A removable set of teeth.
Endodontics - A form of dentistry that addresses problems affecting the tooth's root or nerve.
Fluoride - A naturally occurring substance added to water, toothpastes and some rinses and used for strengthening the tooth's enamel.
Fluorosis - A harmless over-exposure to fluoride and resulting sometimes in tooth discoloration.
Gingiva - Another word for gum tissue.
Gingivitis - A minor disease of the gums caused by plaque.
Gum disease - An infection of the gum tissues. Also called periodontal disease.
Impacted teeth - A condition in which a tooth fails to erupt or only partially erupts.
Implant - A permanent appliance used to replace a missing tooth.
Incisor - Front teeth with cutting edges; located in the center or on the sides near the front.
Inlay - An indirect artificial filling made of various materials, including porcelain, resin, or gold. fitted to a cavity in a tooth and cemented into place.
Intracoronal - situated or made within the crown of a tooth
Laminate veneer - A shell that is bonded to the enamel of a front tooth. The shell is usually thin and made from porcelain resin.
Malocclusion - Bad bite relationship
Mandible - The lower jaw
Maxilla - The upper jaw
Molar - Usually the largest teeth, near the rear of the mouth. Molars have large chewing surfaces
Nightguard - Night mouth guards are bite pads that are worn at night as you sleep. There are also used as mouth guards for day use. These guards are made of high-grade plastic and are custom fit to the mouth. This device keeps the upper teeth from grinding with the lower teeth, offering an instant solution to teeth clenching problems.
Neuromuscular Dentistry - Are more than the aches and pains felt in and around the neck and head that are associated with your teeth and jaw.
Onlay - An indirect artificial filling made of various materials, including porcelain, resin, or gold; fitted to a cavity in a tooth and cemented into place. It is designed to protect the chewing surface of a tooth by extending to replace a cusp.
Orthodontics - A field of dentistry that deals with tooth and jaw alignment.
Overdenture - A non-fixed dental appliance applied to a small number of natural teeth or implants.
Palate - Roof of the mouth.
Partial denture - A removable appliance that replaces teeth. Also called a bridge.
Pedodontics - A field of dentistry that deals with children's teeth.
Perio pocket - An opening formed by receding gums.
Periodontal disease - Infection of the gum tissues. Also called gum disease.
Periodontist - A dentist who treats diseases of the gums.
Permanent teeth - The teeth that erupt after primary teeth. Also called adult teeth.
Plaque -Plaque is a sticky, colorless, almost invisible film or substance that forms on the teeth after sleep or periods between brushing. It is a growing colony of living bacteria, food debris, and saliva.
Posterior teeth - The bicuspids and molars. Also called the back teeth.
Primary teeth - A person's first set of teeth. Also called baby teeth or temporary teeth.
Prophylaxis - The act of cleaning the teeth.
Prosthodontics - The field of dentistry that deals with artificial dental appliances.
Pulp - The inner tissues of the tooth containing blood, nerves and connective tissue.
Radiographs - Diagnostic X-rays essential for detection of decay, tumors, cysts, and bone loss. X-rays also help determine tooth and root positions.
Receding gum - A condition in which the gums separate from the tooth, allowing bacteria and other substances to attack the tooth's enamel and surrounding bone.
Resin filling - An artificial filling used to restore teeth. Also called a composite filling.
Root canal - A procedure in which a tooth's nerve is removed and an inner canal cleansed and later filled.
Root planing - Scraping or cleansing of teeth to remove heavy buildup of tartar below the gum line.
Sealant - A synthetic material placed on the tooth's surface that protects the enamel and chewing surfaces.
Tartar - A hardened substance (also called calculus) that sticks to the tooth's surface.
Tooth decay – Tooth decay occurs when the acids found in plaque erode the natural enamel found on the teeth. This phenomenon can easily be prevented by using proper home hygiene methods. Tooth decay is one of the leading causes of tooth loss, and its treatment often requires complex dental procedures.Teeth polishing: Removal of stain and plaque that is not otherwise removed during tooth brushing and scaling.
TMD - Temporomandibular joint disorder. Health problems related to the jaw joint just in front of the ear.
Veneer - A laminate applied or bonded to the tooth.
Whitening - A process that employs special bleaching agents for restoring the color of teeth.
Wisdom tooth - Third set of molars that erupt last in adolescence.
When you come into the dental office for an examination, you might assume that the focus is on your teeth. That's often correct — but don't forget that there are a number of other parts of the oral and facial anatomy that are examined as well. These include areas around and inside the mouth (such as the lips, gums, hard and soft palate, and the tongue) as well as outside the mouth (the skin, muscles and glands in the neck, and the temporomandibular joint). In fact, when it comes to detecting certain oral or systemic (whole-body) diseases, a thorough dental exam may be your first line of defense.
How are diseases in the mouth discovered? Most of the time, it's simple: You will be asked about any changes you have noticed, or symptoms you may be experiencing. Your face, mouth, and neck will then be visually inspected, and certain areas may be palpated (gently touched or pressed with fingers) or probed (touched with a small instrument). If needed, additional tests or diagnostic imaging (X-rays or other methods) may be used to aid in diagnosis.
Occasionally, an abnormality such as a lesion (an unusual localized change in your tissues) is found that needs to be examined further. Lesions may resemble white or red spots or lumps (tumors), but they are typically benign. However, it is often better to err on the side of caution and perform a biopsy to be sure. This may involve making a small incision and removing a part of the suspicious area. The tissue sample will be sent to a pathologist, who examines it under a microscope for signs of disease.
Some Oral Diseases To Look For
Oral cancer is perhaps the most significant disease to look for in an examination — both because it can be life-threatening, and because early detection is proven to increase the survival rate. But it's important to remember that a large majority of unusual growths are found to be benign. Some other oral diseases that may be screened for include:
- Fibroma, a thickened mass that may feel like a lump in the lining of the mouth.
- Leukoplakia, a condition that causes white patches to form inside the mouth. While usually benign, the lesions may be precancerous and are often biopsied.
- Lichen Planus, an inflammatory disease that sometimes causes discomfort.
- Mucous Membrane Pemphigoid, an autoimmune disease that may cause oral lesions, but is not life threatening.
- “Pregnancy Tumors,” benign red swellings that may form on gum tissue of pregnant women due to hormonal changes.
In addition, some systemic diseases (such as diabetes, Crohn's disease, and heart disease) may produce effects that can be observed in the mouth. We are always on the lookout for signs of these potentially serious conditions.
When a Biopsy Is Needed
Although the majority of oral lesions are benign, if there is any possibility that the growth could be cancerous or pre-cancerous, it's likely that a biopsy will be performed. Depending on how much tissue needs to be removed, this may be a simple in-office procedure, or it may be done in a hospital setting. Typically, the procedure requires only local anesthesia, and it doesn't take long. If incisions are made, they are often closed with self-dissolving sutures (stitches) that don't need to be removed.
Because the oral tissues are rich in blood vessels, some bleeding is normal for a period of time afterward. You will be given follow-up instructions as needed, including how to manage swelling and discomfort, when to take medication, and what to eat and drink. Getting some rest and maintaining good oral hygiene will also help you get back to normal as quickly as possible. When the pathology report is complete (usually in a few days), you will be given the results.
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Common Lumps and Bumps in the Mouth As most of us know, the soft tissues of the cheeks, lips and tongue occasionally get in the way of our teeth and — chomp! If the same sore spot gets bitten repeatedly, a knot of fibrous tissue can develop. These lumps and bumps can easily be removed, and are often biopsied as a routine precaution... Read Article
Cold Sores Cold sores are a vexing problem for many. They are caused by a highly contagious strain of the herpes virus that can sometimes thwart the body's immune system. The resulting blisters can be uncomfortable and unsightly. Over the past two decades, antiviral medications have been developed to help prevent outbreaks and speed healing... Read Article