The inside of the mouth is normally covered with a special type of skin (mucosa) that is smooth and coral pink in color. Any alteration in this appearance could be suggestive of a pathological process. The most serious of these is oral cancer. The following may indicate the need for a biopsy to establish the diagnosis:
- Reddish patches (erythroplakia) or whitish patches (leukoplakia) involving the intraoral mucosa
- A sore that fails to heal and and/or bleeds easily
- A lump or thickening of the mucosa 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, tongue, face, neck, and soft tissue around the teeth. Pain does not always occur with pathology, and often it is not associated with oral cancer. However, any patient with oral and/or facial pain without an obvious cause should be evaluated via an examination and indicated x-rays.