A routine part of an oral examination should be inspection not only of the teeth and gums but also of the soft tissues in and around the mouth.

Dentists look for abnormal changes that are loosely called “lesions.” Many lesions are innocuous and can be easily diagnosed and named based upon their appearance alone.

However, some lesions are not as easy to identify and require additional diagnostic steps, such as a biopsy (removal of a piece of the lesion to examine under a microscope). A small percentage of these lesions may be premalignant or even malignant.