Oral pathology services

Just like other areas of your body, your mouth can develop diseases or abnormalities requiring treatment.

Oral pathology focuses on conditions affecting your mouth, including your salivary glands, jaw bones and soft tissues like your tongue, lips and cheeks.

What is an oral pathologist

Oral pathologists are dentists who specialise in oral and maxillofacial pathology (the diagnosis, and treatment of diseases in the teeth, gums, bones, joints, glands, skin, and muscles around your mouth). These include burning mouth syndrome, dry mouth, lichen planus, oral candidiasis, mouth ulcers and oral malignancy.

Oral pathology services at Dent8


Our dentists check your mouth for signs of oral pathology during routine check-ups


Our oral pathologist sees patients with concerning signs or symptoms, conducts tests and diagnoses conditions.


Our oral pathologist provides evidence-based treatment for your condition.

Warning signs

It’s important to be aware of the early warning signs of oral cancer so you know when to see an oral pathologist. Your dentist will usually look for these signs in your regular check-ups but we also recommend that you ask your dentist to do an oral cancer screen, particularly if you have a history of melanoma.

Signs of oral pathology

  • Lumps, bumps or rough areas
  • Red, white or discoloured patches
  • Persistent sores or ulcers that bleed easily or fail to heal
  • Persistent hoarseness or sore throat
  • Difficulty chewing or swallowing
  • Gums that bleed excessively when you floss or brush

If you have pain in your mouth or jaw, please contact us as this should also be investigated.

oral pathology appointment

What does an oral pathology appointment involve?

What does an oral pathology appointment involve

Seeing an oral pathologist is, in many ways, very similar to seeing a dentist except that the focus is on mouth disease.

During your appointment, your oral pathologist may:

  • Discuss your reasons for being there
  • Ask you about your overall health
  • Examine any abnormalities
  • Perform a biopsy if necessary – we give you a local anaesthetic then carefully remove a small sample of tissue from the suspicious area and send it to the lab for testing.
  • Conduct other tests (such as blood tests) if required.

You’ll usually have a follow-up appointment to discuss any test results and determine a program of treatment.

Key oral pathology conditions

Mouth cancer

Mouth cancer is the most serious form of oral pathology. It’s a type of head and neck cancer, most commonly occurring on the lips, tongue or floor of the mouth, though it can also be found in your cheeks, gums, tonsils, salivary glands or the roof of your mouth.

Risk factors for oral cancer include:

  • Smoking
  • Drinking alcohol
  • A history of poor oral hygiene and gum disease
  • Sun exposure.
  • History of melanoma
  • History of HPV
  • History of lichen planus

Treatment for mouth cancer may include radiotherapy, chemotherapy or surgery. As with other cancers, the earlier it is found, the better.

Lichen planus

Lichen planus may cause swelling, irritation, burning or soreness inside your mouth. Usually, it looks like lacy patches of tiny white dots on your tongue or the inside of your cheeks. Redness and sores may develop in more severe cases.

The cause is not yet known, though it may be related to Hepatitis C, certain medications or reactions to metal fillings in your teeth. It could also be an autoimmune disorder where your immune system mistakenly attacks your mouth and skin cells.

If we suspect lichen planus, we’ll take a biopsy. Lichen planus in the mouth is usually treated with medication.

Oral mucoceles

An oral mucocele is a mucus-filled cyst inside your mouth. These are common, mostly harmless and usually go away on their own.

However, an oral pathologist may become involved if the mucocele is so large that it is causing discomfort and interfering with your ability to speak, chew or swallow. We may also recommend treatment if you’re experiencing frequent mucoceles.

If treatment is needed, it may involve:

  • Cryotherapy, the use of extreme cold to freeze and destroy the cyst
  • Laser treatment to remove the lesion
  • Surgery to remove the cyst and possibly also the salivary gland.

Meet our oral pathologist

Dent8’s highly experienced team includes an Oral Medicine and Oral Pathologist, Dr Arabelle Clayden. She is particularly interested in pre-cancerous changes in the mouth and the management of mucosal disease.

Dr Clayden gained first class honours from the UQ Dental School in 1992 and also won the University Medal and the Hatton Award for best international dental research at an undergraduate level.

Dr Arabelle Clayden

BDentSt, BDSc (Hons), MDSc, FRACDS, FRACDS (Oral Med), FICD, FOMAA

Arabelle Clayden


  • Bachelor of Dental Science, University of Queensland, 1992
  • Bachelor of Dental Studies, University of Queensland, 1992
  • Masters in Oral Pathology and Oral Medicine, University of Queensland,1997


  • Fellowship of the Royal Australasian College of Dental Surgeons (general practice)
  • Fellowship of the Royal Australasian College of Dental Surgeons (oral medicine)
  • Past president of the Oral Medicine Society of Australia
  • Member of the International Association of Dental Research
  • Member of the European Association of Oral Medicine
  • Past member of the Board of Studies for Oral Medicine for the RACDS.
  • Member of the Australian Dental Association
  • Fellow of the Oral Medicine Academy of Australasia.


  • Overseas experience in oral medicine, Dublin Dental Hospital, Ireland
  • 16 years as a senior dental specialist, Queensland Health
    • Queensland Children’s Hospital
    • Multidisciplinary team for Head and Neck Cancer at the Princess Alexandra Hospital
  • Private practice in Sydney and Brisbane.