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Descriptive Terminology for Oral Mucosal Lesions

Updated: Mar 25

Descriptive Terminology for Oral Mucosal Lesions




This post is primarily for oral healthcare providers – dentists, dental students, dental hygienists, assistants, etc.



When we (oral healthcare providers) identify an abnormality or a variation of normal anatomy while examining a patient, we are responsible for documenting our findings using appropriate descriptors and terminology.



MedicineNet defines a lesion as “an area of abnormal tissue change.” Therefore, when we document our findings as lesions without clarifying the specific type of tissue change, we leave out crucial details that may impact communication and care delivery.



Let’s imagine that you are traveling to Omaha, Nebraska, for the first time. Your aunt who lives there promises to pick you up from the airport on arrival. It would not be helpful if she told you to watch out for her car without giving you precise details of the type of car she would be driving and the color. The same goes for documenting oral mucosal findings as lesions without specifying the type of lesion.



Below is a glossary of descriptive terminology for oral mucosal lesions.



If you would like a downloadable PDF version, click the button below to subscribe to my newsletter, and you will receive access to the PDF version.



I hope you find it helpful.




Until next time.

Dr. Chizobam Idahosa




Descriptive Terminology for Oral Mucosal Lesions

Term

Definition

Abscess

A localized collection of purulent exudate

Bulla

Fluid-filled elevated lesion greater than 5mm in diameter

Ecchymosis

Red/purple macular area of submucosal hemorrhage/ extravasated blood

Endophytic

A lesion that is growing inwards into the underlying tissue

Erosion

Partial loss of the surface epithelium not extending through the full thickness

Erythema

Redness of the mucosa usually caused by inflammation, atrophy of capillary dilatation

Fissure

Linear slit or groove in the skin or mucosa

Fistula

Abnormal tract connecting two body cavities or connecting a body cavity to the body surface permitting passage of fluid and secretions including pus

Fixed

A lesion that is firmly attached to the overlying or underlying structures

Hematoma

A localized swelling filled with blood

Indurated

Hardening of soft tissue usually due to chronic inflammation or malignancy

Macule

Circumscribed discolored flat lesion not raised above level of surrounding mucosa

Mass

Circumscribed elevated solid lesion more than 2cm in diameter “tumor-like”

Mobile

A lesion that is freely movable and not attached to the overlying or underlying structures

Nodule

Circumscribed elevated solid lesion more than 5mm in diameter, but less than 2cm

Papillary

A lesion that has numerous surface projections

Papule

Circumscribed elevated solid lesion less than 5mm in diameter

Pedunculated

Exophytic lesion whose base is narrower than the widest part of the lesion

Petechiae

Pin-point red or purple spots caused by submucosal hemorrhage

Plaque

Slightly elevated area of mucosa with a flat surface

Pustule

Circumscribed raised lesion containing pus

Reticular

Resembling a net

Sessile

Exophytic lesion whose base is the widest part of the lesion

Ulcer

Break in continuity of the oral mucosa due to loss of full thickness of oral epithelium resulting in exposure of underlying connective tissue which is usually coated by a white or yellow membrane

Verrucous

An exophytic lesion with rough wartlike projections

Vesicle

Fluid-filled elevated lesion less than 5mm in diameter



© 2023. Descriptive Terminology for Oral Mucosal Lesions. Dr. Chizobam Idahosa. All Rights Reserved.


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