Oral and maxillofacial pathology is a dental specialty studying mouth, jaw, head, and neck disorders. Maxillofacial pathology specifically evaluates jaw function and facial formation, while oral pathology is concerned with the general health of the oral cavity, which includes the mouth and throat. Practitioners of oral and maxillofacial pathology are called oral and maxillofacial pathologists and are dentists who have undergone additional training and a residency in the field.
Common conditions that oral and maxillofacial pathologists treat include:
Oral pathologists identify conditions by searching mouth tissues for inflammatory proteins and other irregularities. Some maxillofacial disorders may be diagnosed by appearance alone; however, X-rays are most commonly relied upon to accurately assess patients.
Treatment for oral and maxillofacial conditions is concerned with curing infection, repairing oral tissue, and aligning bones. For mouth infections, antibiotics are prescribed and patients may be instructed to use topical ointments or antibiotic mouthwash. Other disorders like cancer are treated by different specialists who use radiation therapy and surgery. Severe jaw disorders may require treatment by an oral and maxillofacial surgeon.
Oral and maxillofacial pathologists may work in conjunction with orthodontists, maxillofacial surgeons, otorhinolaryngologists (ENTs), and somnologists (sleep specialists). Speech-language pathologists and facial trauma surgeons may supplement oral and maxillofacial treatment.