ORAL & MAXILLOFACIAL PATHOLOGY

The face, neck and jaws are some of the most complex anatomical regions in the human body. Abnormalities of these structures is commonly referred to as “pathology”. Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons are highly trained in the investigation, diagnosis and treatment of many of these disorders an often work within a multidisciplinary team to manage the most serious and difficult of these conditions involving the head and neck.

Conditions of the face, neck and jaws can arise from many causes. These include inherited or congenital conditions, those that develop from the embryonic precursors of the jaws and teeth, infections (viral, bacterial or fungal), benign (non cancerous) tumours of any soft tissues, bone or cartilage and autoimmune conditions. Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons are often prominent members of multidisciplinary teams that manage cancers of the head and neck (also see below).

Benign (non cancerous) growths in these regions are often discovered by dentists during routine examination or xrays. Cysts and tumours in the jaws most commonly arise from the structures that form the teeth and their supporting structures. They can sometimes grow quite large before being identified on routine X-rays or causing swelling or infection.

Diagnosis of these conditions often requires a biopsy (sampling of the pathology) and further imaging with CT or MRI scans.

Treatment may involve surgical removal of the lesion. This is often curative, but some benign growths have a tendency to recur and require regular follow up.

Patients are often referred to an Oral & Maxillofacial Surgeon to manage infections of the head and neck. Bacterial infections may result in the collection of pus (abscess) that arises from decayed teeth where the nerve has died, but other infections may arise from blocked salivary glands, from the upper jaw sinuses or from the skin. Some bacterial infections may cause rapid swelling that may result in life threatening airway compromise. Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons are experts in the management of these conditions and treatment usually involves surgical drainage of the abscess, intravenous antibiotics and close monitoring for complications.