Oral & Maxillofacial Pathology

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 pathologic 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. 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 and 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 may help.

Dr. McCormack is able to diagnose and treat many pathological entities within the maxillofacial region. Cysts and tumors of the jaws are often first observed by a general dentist and then referred to an Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon for biopsy. Some of these lesions can destroy large amounts of the jawbone and require reconstruction with bone grafting and dental implants.

Facial and neck infections can often be caused by diseased teeth. These are serious situations that can rapidly worsen and lead to death if left untreated. Sometimes patients must be admitted to the hospital for intravenous antibiotics and airway management.

Infections can even arise within the jawbone itself. This disease is known as osteomyelitis and can be devastating to a patient’s health. Patient’s who have undergone radiation of the head and neck for cancer can develop a disease process called osteoradionecrosis. The bone and soft tissue in the area is unable to heal and sometimes hyperbaric oxygen treatments are required.

General dentists and primary care physicians often refer patients to Dr. McCormack for biopsy of tissue that appears abnormal. Dr. McCormack submits all biopsy specimen to a board certified Oral and Maxillofacial Pathologist who is trained in the histopathological examination and diagnosing of head and neck disease.


Watch AAOMS video on head and neck pathology