The patient must be screened for oral cancer at the initial appointment and each routine dental examination by performing an extraoral and intraoral examination. Imaging is normally prescribed based on an individual’s diagnoses, but suspicious areas in the oral cavity may require additional imaging. There are various types of pathology lesions found in the oral cavity and the head and neck regions. Even though the allied dental professional cannot diagnose lesions, they should be educated in oral pathology to identify lesions when assisting the dentist in his or her diagnosis. Each of the dental team members should know what “normal” tissues look like when treating patients. It’s also important for all team members to know that the standard care of practice is to determine how long the lesion has been present and, if the lesion was there more than two weeks it should be examined more closely and a possibly a biopsy is performed. It is strongly recommended dental team members attend continuing education courses on oral pathology to keep current on pathologic lesions. Also, the American Academy of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology’s website is one resource to download PDF instructional pages with photographs of common pathologies. Four pathologic categories are explained in this section of the course. Each dental facility should have oral pathology books and/or online resources with color photographs available for dental clinicians to assist with diagnoses.
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