Accurso working


What is an oral pathologist?

An Oral and Maxillofacial Pathologist, more commonly known as an oral pathologist, is a specialist in the field of dentistry.  All oral pathologists are dentists that have completed an additional residency training program, usually 3 years in length, although the entire length of training may be longer, especially if completed along with a PhD program.  The specialty of oral and maxillofacial pathology was established over 50 years ago and represents one of twelve dental specialties that are recognized by the American Dental Association (click here for a list of ADA recognized dental specialties).  As noted by the American Board of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology, the certifying organization for this specialty, “The pathologic conditions of the oral maxillofacial region are complex with oral and maxillofacial pathologists often being the key component in establishing a diagnosis. In the specialty of oral maxillofacial pathology clinical diagnosis of disease, microscopic diagnosis of disease as well as the management of those diseases is practiced.”  In more practical terms, this specialty is involved with recognizing, diagnosing, and sometimes managing strange lumps, bumps, swellings, ulcers, and other abnormal findings in the area of the head and neck area.  The area of expertise for an oral pathologist is the area between the collar bones and the skull as established by training, but many oral pathologists focus almost entirely on the mouth and jaws.

 How is an oral pathologist different from other dental specialists?

The primary focus of most dental specialties involves direct patient care in a traditional dental office setting.  Traditional dental procedures include fillings, crowns, bridges, dental maintenance, and head and neck cancer screenings.  The primary focus of oral pathology, in contrast, is how to use a microscope and make diagnoses by looking at tissue samples (biopsies).  It is the use of the microscope, and the ability to make a microscopic diagnosis from a sample of tissue (biopsy), that sets this specialty apart from all other dental specialties like oral surgery, periodontics, oral medicine, oral radiology, etc.  Most oral pathologists are usually not involved in direct patient care, although some are.  Instead of seeing patients directly like most other dental specialties, oral pathology usually just sees a tissue sample from a patient that has an unusual growth in the mouth, tongue, lip, etc.  After looking at a biopsy under the microscope and making a diagnosis for the biopsy, oral pathologists will relay that diagnosis to the doctor.  The doctor that performed the biopsy on the patient will then discuss the findings with his/her patient.

How is an oral pathologist different from a medical pathologist?

Oral pathologists are dentists and medical pathologists are physicians.  Medical pathologists are highly trained and very capable to diagnose diseases of the entire body.  Because the body is so big, and there is so much to know about diseases the arise in the human body, many medical pathologists will focus on diagnosing certain types of disease such as blood diseases, skin diseases, urinary and gynecological diseases, and head and neck diseases.  While medical pathologists cannot be oral pathologists, they can focus on diseases in the head and neck area by completing a head and neck pathology fellowship.  There is much overlap in training and skill set between a head and neck trained medical pathologist and an oral pathologist.  In contrast to most medical pathologists that see a couple hundred or less biopsies from the mouth and jaws each year, many oral pathologists look at thousands of biopsies from the mouth and jaws each year.
Despite the differences between oral pathologists and medical pathologists, there are a great deal of similarities.  In fact, these health care professionals often work alongside one another to provide optimal patient care.  Histopathology laboratories are certified, licensed, and comply with federal regulatory agencies.  Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) and College of American Pathologists (CAP) are two organizations involved with maintaining the highest standards in the field of laboratory services.  Click for more information on CLIA and CAP.

Why should you want an oral pathologist?

While many health care providers, both physicians and dentists, can help to evaluate, diagnose, and manage patients with abnormal tissue in the mouth, jaws, and head and neck area, oral pathologists fill a small but very important niche in healthcare.  Because oral pathologists are dentists and are trained to review x-rays and clinical photographs in addition to making microscopic diagnoses, oral pathologists have a distinctive skill set and are uniquely positioned to help with patient healthcare.  At Oral Pathology Consultants, we feel so strongly about the benefits of oral pathology in patient healthcare that we believe that all biopsies from the mouth and jaws should be evaluated by an oral and maxillofacial pathologist.

How do I find an oral pathologist?

Oral Pathology is a very small specialty with only 250-300 board certified oral pathologists.  While most states have at least one oral pathologist within the state, some states such as Idaho, Montana, and North and South Dakota do not.  Most oral pathologists are associated with training institutions, such as dental schools, although there are number of private practice oral pathology labs in the country.  To locate an oral pathologist in your area, the American Academy of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology offers a list of oral pathologists that can be found here.  For more information about the profession of oral and maxillofacial pathology, the American Board of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology (ABOMP) may offer some helpful resources.  Click here to be directed to the ABOMP website.

About Dr. Accurso and Dr. Martin

Dr. Accurso – Originally from the Detroit area, Dr. Accurso grew up in Livonia, MI before graduating from the University of Michigan for both his undergraduate and dental degrees in 2002 and 2006 respectively. He then completed a General Practice Residency in Dentistry at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, NC in 2007. Dr. Accurso trained in Oral & Maxillofacial Pathology from 2007 to 2010 at Ohio State University in Columbus, OH, where he also received a Master of Public Health degree. After completion of his specialty training, he returned to Detroit to join Oral Pathology Consultants and also practiced general dentistry in a public health setting for 5 years before transitioning to full-time pathology practice in 2016. Dr. Accurso initially received board certification in Oral & Maxillofacial Pathology in 2011 and re-certified in 2018. Dr. Accurso and his wife reside in the Detroit area where they enjoy the numerous cultural activities available in the area, traveling, and cheering for their alma mater, the University of Michigan Wolverines.

Dr. Martin - Dr. Martin is originally from St. Louis, MO.  In 1996, after receiving an undergraduate degree in dental laboratory technology, he entered Southern Illinois University School of Dental Medicine.  In 2000 he received his DMD and entered the U.S. Army after graduation.  After completing his initial military obligation, and an additional 6 years as a private practice clinician, he returned to military service with the U.S. Air Force.  In 2009, he began postgraduate training in Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology at The Ohio State University.  He was awarded a Master of Science degree from OSU in 2012.  Between 2012 and 2019 Dr. Martin served at both David Grant Medical Center, CA and San Antonio Military Medical Center, TX where his responsibilities included clinical and didactic training for multiple advanced dental and medical education programs including, AEGD, Oral Surgery, ENT, and General Pathology.  In 2015 he was appointed Assistant Professor, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences.  In February 2017, Dr. Martin completed a 2-year forensic odontology fellowship at University of Texas, San Antonio, and served as Forensic Consultant to the Air Force Surgeon General between 2017-2019.  Dr. Martin remains in military service as a member of the Michigan Air National Guard, Selfridge AFB, MI.  Dr. Martin is married with two daughters.  Click here for Dr. Martin’s CV.

Now that you know what an oral pathologist is, and what an oral pathologist does, click below if you want to know more about a biopsy of the mouth and jaws.