Oral Pathology

Oral pathology is a specialized field within dentistry and oral surgery that focuses on the identification, diagnosis, and management of diseases affecting the oral cavity (mouth), jaws, salivary glands, and related structures. These conditions can range from benign lesions to potentially malignant or cancerous growths. Early detection and accurate diagnosis are crucial for successful treatment and optimal patient outcomes.

Common Oral Pathology Conditions in Santa Maria, CA and Arroyo Grande, CA

Oral Cancer

Oral cancer includes cancers of the lips, tongue, cheeks, floor of the mouth, hard and soft palate, sinuses, and throat. Risk factors include tobacco and alcohol use, human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, and sun exposure (for lip cancer).

Oral Precancerous Lesions

These are tissue changes in the mouth that may develop into cancer if not treated. Examples include leukoplakia (white patches), erythroplakia (red patches), and oral submucous fibrosis.

Salivary Gland Disorders

Conditions affecting the salivary glands include infections (sialadenitis), stones (sialolithiasis), and tumors (both benign and malignant).

Benign Oral Lesions

These are non-cancerous growths that may require treatment due to discomfort, esthetic concerns, or functional impairment. Examples include fibromas, papillomas, and mucoceles.

Odontogenic Cysts and Tumors

These arise from the tissues involved in tooth development (odontogenic). Examples include dentigerous cysts, odontogenic keratocysts, and ameloblastomas.

Inflammatory and Infectious Conditions

These include conditions such as oral candidiasis (thrush), recurrent aphthous stomatitis (canker sores), and oral lichen planus.

Diagnostic Techniques in Santa Maria, CA

Diagnostic techniques in oral pathology play a crucial role in identifying and evaluating various conditions affecting the mouth, jaws, and related structures. These techniques are essential for accurate diagnosis, treatment planning, and monitoring of oral diseases. Here are the diagnostic techniques commonly used in oral pathology:

Clinical Examination

Visual Inspection

A thorough visual examination of the oral cavity is conducted by your dentist in Santa Maria, CA and Arroyo Grande, CA  to assess the appearance of tissues, looking for abnormalities such as lesions, ulcers, discolorations, or swellings.


Manual palpation is performed to feel for any lumps, bumps, or abnormalities in the tissues, including lymph nodes in the neck.

Imaging Studies

X-Rays (Radiographs)

  • Intraoral X-rays: These provide detailed images of teeth and supporting bone structures, which are useful for detecting abnormalities in tooth roots, bone density, and periodontal conditions.
  • Extraoral X-rays: Panoramic radiographs and cephalometric X-rays capture broader views of the entire mouth and jaw, aiding in the assessment of impacted teeth, cysts, tumors, and bone abnormalities.

Computed Tomography (CT) Scan

CT scans offer detailed cross-sectional images of oral and maxillofacial structures, including bones, soft tissues, and airways. They are valuable for evaluating complex anatomical relationships and assessing lesions involving bone.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

MRI scans provide detailed images of soft tissues, nerves, and blood vessels in the oral cavity and face. They are particularly useful for assessing soft tissue tumors, nerve involvement, and vascular anomalies.


Incisional Biopsy

A small sample of tissue is surgically removed from the suspicious lesion for microscopic examination. This type of biopsy is performed when the lesion is large or when multiple types of tissue are present.

Excisional Biopsy

The entire lesion or tumor is surgically removed along with a margin of healthy tissue for examination. This type of biopsy is performed when the lesion is small and suspected to be benign.

Fine-Needle Aspiration (FNA) Biopsy

A thin needle is inserted into the lesion to extract a sample of cells or fluid for examination under a microscope. FNAs are commonly used for evaluating cysts, salivary gland tumors, and lymph node abnormalities.

Laboratory Tests

Histopathological Examination

The collected tissue samples are sent to a pathology laboratory, where they are processed, stained, and examined by a pathologist under a microscope. This examination helps to determine the nature of the lesion, whether it is benign, precancerous, or malignant.

Microbiological Culture

Culturing techniques are used to identify bacterial, viral, or fungal infections in oral lesions. This is particularly important for diagnosing conditions such as oral thrush (candidiasis) or chronic infections.

Molecular and Genetic Testing

Papanicolaou (Pap) Smear

This test is used to detect abnormal cells in the oral cavity and is particularly useful for screening for oral cancers and precancerous lesions.

Genetic Testing

Molecular techniques such as polymerase chain reaction (PCR) can analyze DNA and RNA to identify specific genetic mutations associated with inherited conditions or predisposition to certain oral diseases. Call us to learn more.

Specialized Techniques

Fluorescence Imaging

Techniques like VELscope or fluorescence spectroscopy use light to visualize biochemical changes in oral tissues, aiding in the detection of early-stage cancers or precancerous lesions.

Digital Imaging

Digital photography and imaging software allow for precise documentation and monitoring of oral lesions over time, facilitating communication between healthcare providers and patients.

Treatment Approaches in Santa Maria, CA and Arroyo Grande, CA

Treatment approaches in oral pathology vary widely depending on the specific condition diagnosed. Here are the common treatment modalities used in oral pathology:

Surgical Excision

Surgical removal of lesions, tumors, or cysts may be necessary to eliminate the pathology and prevent recurrence.

Medical Management

Depending on the diagnosis, medications such as antifungals, antibiotics, or antivirals may be prescribed to treat infections or inflammatory conditions.

Radiation Therapy

In cases of oral cancer or certain benign tumors, radiation therapy may be recommended to shrink tumors or destroy cancer cells.


Chemotherapy may be used in combination with surgery and/or radiation therapy for advanced or metastatic oral cancers.

Follow-up Care

Regular follow-up visits are important to monitor healing, check for recurrence, and manage any long-term effects of treatment.

Wilson Oral Surgery's Approach

At Wilson Oral Surgery in Santa Maria, CA and Arroyo Grande, CA, we are dedicated to providing comprehensive care for patients with oral pathology conditions. Our team of oral surgeons and specialists utilizes advanced diagnostic tools and treatment modalities to ensure accurate diagnosis and personalized care plans. We prioritize patient education, ensuring that each patient understands their condition, treatment options, and prognosis.

Our practice is equipped with state-of-the-art facilities and a compassionate team committed to supporting patients throughout their treatment journey. Whether you require minor oral surgery for a benign lesion or complex treatment for oral cancer, we are here to provide expert care with a focus on your comfort and well-being.


Oral pathology encompasses a diverse range of conditions affecting the oral cavity and surrounding structures. Early detection, accurate diagnosis, and timely intervention are critical for successful outcomes in treating oral diseases. At Wilson Oral Surgery in Santa Maria, CA and Arroyo Grande, CA, we are committed to delivering exceptional care through advanced diagnostic techniques and personalized treatment plans tailored to each patient's needs. 

To learn more, visit Wilson Oral Surgery at 2151 S College Dr Ste 104, Santa Maria, CA 93455 or 207 Station Way, Arroyo Grande, CA 93420. You an also call our Santa Maria dental office at (805) 925-1440 or Arroyo Grande dental office at (805) 574-1200 to schedule an appointment with us.


2151 S College Dr., Suite 104, Santa Maria, CA 93455

Phone: (805) 925-1440

Email: info@centralcoastoms.com

  • MON - THU8:00 am - 5:00 pm
  • FRI8:00 am - 12:00 pm
  • SAT - SUNClosed
Contact Us

207 Station Way, Arroyo Grande, CA 93420

Phone: (805) 574-1200

Email: info@centralcoastoms.com

  • MON - THU8:00 am - 5:00 pm
  • FRI8:00 am - 12:00 pm
  • SAT - SUNClosed
Contact Us