The art and science of oral examination

Dermatol Ther. May-Jun 2010;23(3):209-19. doi: 10.1111/j.1529-8019.2010.01318.x.


Performing an accurate oral examination is an integral part of a complete dermatological evaluation. As dermatologists, we are frequently asked to assess and treat numerous oral pathologies, which include, but are not limited to, normal variants, infections, ulcers, granulomas, lymphomas, as well as primary and metastatic tumors of the mouth and lips. The oral mucosa can be the window through which one can see and make numerous systemic diagnoses. Some clinicians are apprehensive about performing this evaluation, or feel that this examination is outside of their realm of expertise. These concerns may reflect limited exposure and education during training. Therefore, this article aimed to educate the readers on how to complete an oral examination, demonstrate normal variants, and highlight potential pitfalls and limitations of performing oral biopsies.

MeSH terms

  • Biopsy / methods*
  • Humans
  • Mouth Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Mouth*
  • Physical Examination / methods*