Dental Infections and Pathology


Dental infections range in nature from the relatively benign infections, which produce mild swelling and discomfort, to life-threatening infections, which compromise the patient’s ability to breath and body to function.

Thankfully, the vast majority of dental infections can be successfully treated with a visit to the oral surgeon and a prescription for common antibiotic. More serious infections must be treated in the hospital setting and may require the patient to have one or more surgical procedures before they are better.

The oral and maxillofacial surgeon is uniquely qualified to diagnose and treat infections of the head and neck. He is intimately familiar with the complex anatomy of this area and the common etiology and pathogenesis of such infections.

Dr. Whitesides has extensive training in the diagnosis and surgical management of infections of the head and neck. The paper he authored on cervical necrotizing fasciitis (J Oral Maxillofac Surg vol. 58 no 2 page 146-151, 2000) reflects his deep familiarity and knowledge about such life-threatening infections.

Dr. Whitesides also strongly believes in treatment of head and neck infections as a team approach; thus he routinely enlists the assistance of an Infectious Disease specialist in the more serious cases.

Head & Neck Pathology

Pathologic diseases of the head and neck encompass a kaleidoscope of disorders that range from the benign mucocele to life-threatening squamous cell carcinoma. Many benign lesions can be successfully treated in the office with minor surgical procedures. More involved cases will require additional radiographic imaging (CT/MRI) and subsequent surgery in the hospital.

Like most types of pathology early diagnosis and treatment is the key determining factor in the prognosis of the patient with head and neck pathology. Long-term survival of the patient is greatly increased when cancers are detected early. This is especially true for squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck. This type of carcinoma represents up to 5% of all cancers diagnosed in America. It is most closely associated with patient’s who smoke for many years and consume significant quantities of alcohol regularly. In the United States, there are approximately 10,000 deaths attributed to oral cancer yearly. In the vast majority of these cases, should the cancer have been found earlier, the patient would have lived longer with a greater quality of life had the pathology been detected earlier.

Annual visits, with x-rays, to your general dentist is the single most important form of prevention. Should your general dentist refer you for a second opinion do not delay, call our office immediately and we will make every effort to see you as soon as possible.

While at University of Maryland Medical System, Dr. Whitesides participated in the treatment and care of 60 to 70 major cancer and pathology cases in each his four years as a resident. This wealth of experience and knowledge has given him a deep understanding of the various pathological entities that occurre in the head and neck region.

Whatever your diagnoses Dr. Whitesides will work closely with your primary care physician and/or general dentist to properly diagnose and treat your special pathology.

To View Dr. Whitesides Power Point presentation of oral cancer click here.