Branches of Dentistry: Oral medicine

Oral medicine is a specialty which focuses on the mouth and surrounding structures. In practice, it combines both medicine and dentistry. Oral medicine may also be called dental medicine, oral and maxillofacial medicine or stomatology.


The mouth has always played an important role in medicine. The specialization of oral medicine is a relatively new subject area. Some institutions refer to it as stomatology. Other institutions refer to it as oral medicine and oral diagnosis. In 1848, American physician and dentist, Thomas E Bond wrote the first book on oral and maxillofacial pathology titled "A Practical Treatise on Dental Medicine". The term "oral medicine" was not known to be used again until 1868. Some consider Jonathan Hutchinson to be the father of oral medicine. Oral medicine began from a group of dentists in New York who were primarily periodontists. The dentists were interested in the relationship between medicine and dentistry. Before it was considered to be its own specialty in the United States, oral medicine was a subspecialty of periodontics. Many periodontists obtained a board certification in both oral medicine and periodontics.


Oral medicine focuses on the clinical diagnosis and non-surgical management of non-dental pathologies affecting the orofacial region. This region refers to the mouth and the lower face.

Many systemic diseases manifest early signs or symptoms in the orofacial region. The mouth may be afflicted by some cutaneous and gastrointestinal conditions. The biofilm covering the teeth causes unique pathologic entities which are known as plaque-induced diseases.

A few conditions which oral medicine is specifically concerned with include: lichen planus, Behçet's disease and pemphigus vulgaris. Additionally, oral medicine includes the diagnosis and follow-up of pre-malignant lesions of the oral cavity. It also includes chronic and acute pain conditions like paroxysmal neuralgias, continuous neuralgias, myofascial pain, atypical facial pain, autonomic cephalalgias, headaches and migraines. Another area of oral medicine involves the management of dental and oral condition for medically compromised patients such as cancer patients. It is involved in the diagnosis and treatment of dry mouth conditions such as Sjögren's syndrome. Additionally, it focuses on non-dental chronic orofacial pain which include burning mouth syndrome, trigeminal neuralgia and temporomandibular joint disorder.

Lumps and swellings of the mouth

It can be common for patients to experience a lump or swelling in the oral areas. The overall presentation can vary drastically and the progression of these lesions can also differ. Lumps and swelling can occur as a result of a variety of conditions, both benign and malignant which include:

  • Normal variation lesions
  • Inflammatory
  • Chornic granulomatous disorders
  • Developmental
  • Traumatic
  • Hormonal
  • Metabolic
  • Drugs
  • Allergy
  • Infective
  • Fibro-osseous
  • Neoplasms

The list above includes a variety of possible causes for lumps and swelling, however, it is not a complete representation of all the possible things which can result in lumps or swelling in the mouth. When considering what may be causing a lump, the location where the lump is located can be especially important.


The American Dental Association (ADA) accredited programs take at least two years to complete. However, oral medicine is not specifically recognized by the American Dental Association. Many oral medicine specialists serve an important role by teaching at dental schools and graduate programs which helps ensure dentists receive excellent training in medical topics pertinent in dentistry.


Call Smile Eden Prairie (952) 941-9829

Smile Eden Prairie practitioners are thorough, compassionate dentists treating patients in Eden Prairie and the surrounding communities. Their primary goal as a practitioner is to help people achieve optimal oral health outcomes.

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