Oral and maxillofacial pathology

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Pathology is the study of the causes and effects of a disease

Oral pathology refers to diagnosing conditions affecting your mouth, face, neck and jaw. It may be a problem you were born with, an infection, a cancerous growth or an autoimmune condition.

Depending on the type of problem, surgery may or may not be needed.

Biopsies and imaging

To make an accurate diagnosis of your condition, Dr van Mourik may first take a sample (a biopsy) of the affected area to be sent away to a lab where they look at it under a microscope to determine if it contains cancer cells. Your results may take several days, but when he gets them back, Dr van Mourik can discuss with you what needs to be done next.

Often some imaging will be required which may include an ultrasound, a CT scan or an MRI scan.

Benign or cancerous?

Benign lesions are an abnormal growth of cells which do not spread to other regions of the body. Some may grow to a size where they cause damage to local structures. Benign lesions may require surgery.  Some benign lesions reoccur and need monitoring over several years.

Cancerous lesions are an abnormal growth of cells which invade nearby tissues. These cancers can move into your blood stream and lymph nodes, and can spread to other parts of the body. Cancerous lesions usually require urgent surgical attention. Other cancer specialists will also be involved in your care.

Types of surgery for oral and jaw cancer

Surgery for cancer depends on the type, stage and location of the cancer:

  • Resection of the tumour – This is the removal of the cancerous tumour and the tissue surrounding it.
  • Maxillectomy – Involves removing the tumour, part of the roof of your mouth and possibly, other areas of the upper jaw bone that are affected.
  • Mandibulectomy – Involves the partial removal of your lower jaw.
  • Laryngectomy – Is performed if a large tumour on your tongue or the area at the back of your throat extends to your larynx (voice box).
  • Removal of lymph nodes and surrounding tissue in your neck is sometimes required if the cancer has already spread there.

Radiation and chemotherapy for cancer

Radiation therapy is often recommended in conjunction with surgery for face, neck and jaw cancer. It uses high-energy X-rays to damage cancer cells and help to minimise the spread of the cancer.

Chemotherapy can be used in combination with both surgery and radiation therapy. It includes medications that help to stop cancers cells from growing.

Where and how the surgery is performed

Dr van Mourik performs mouth, face, neck and jaw surgery in a public or private hospital. The surgery is performed under general anaesthetic administered by a specialist anaesthetist. The anaesthetist is also in charge of providing your post-surgery pain relief.

Recovery after face, neck and jaw surgery

Recovery from surgery can depend on the extent of the disease, the type of surgery you had and your overall health.

After your surgery, Dr van Mourik may refer you to another specialist doctor. You may also need to see a speech therapist and/or physiotherapist to help you with rehabilitation.

Dr Van Mourik will give you detailed post-operative instructions during your pre-surgery consultation. To maximise your chance of making a quick recovery without complications, please pay careful attention to these instructions. General information can be found on the Post-op and Patient Care page.

Dr van Mourik is a highly experienced Oral and Maxillofacial surgeon. He explains things clearly and he’s a good listener, so do ask him questions about your dental implant surgery and tell him about any concerns you have — he’ll take the time to answer and manage your concerns sensitively.

Learn more about oral and maxillofacial pathology in our comprehensive guide

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