The inside of the mouth and lips are normally lined with a special type of skin (mucosa) that is smooth and pink in color. Any alteration in this appearance could be a warning sign for a pathological condition. The most serious of these is oral cancer. The following can be signs at the beginning of a pathologic condition or cancerous growth:
- Reddish patches (erythroplakia) or whitish patches (leukoplakia) in the mouth
- A sore that fails to heal and the skin 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 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 or other conditions. A thorough clinical and radiographic exam is necessary to rule out any pathological conditions.
If needed, a biopsy or other test can be performed in the office to diagnose the problem and develop definitive treatment. Early detection and treatment will improve patient prognosis. Lesions within the mouth can be managed medically and/or surgically.