A survey of the current approaches to diagnosis and management of oral premalignant lesions

Joel B. Epstein*, Meir Gorsky, Dena Fischer, Anurag Gupta, Matthew Epstein, Sharon Elad

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Background. Early diagnosis of oral premalignant lesions (OPLs) and oral squamous cell carcinoma facilitates treatment with less aggressive approaches and results in a better prognosis. The authors conducted a study to identify current practices in the diagnosis and management of these oral lesions by oral medicine professionals. Methods. The authors sent a questionnaire to 176 diplomates of the American Board of Oral Medicine and asked them to complete the questionnaires and return them by mail. Results. The initial clinical approach taken by most of the responders included visual examination, elimination of possible local causes and two-week follow-up. Adjuvant clinical tests included toluidine blue, oral brush biopsy and exfoliative cytology. If there was no clinical improvement after two weeks, most responders recommended that a biopsy be performed. Induration, red component, nonhomogeneous surface and ulceration were characteristics of lesions that increased the responders' decisions to perform a biopsy. Lesion symptoms and location also contributed to their decisions to perform a biopsy. Follow-up more frequently than twice a year was recommended for red lesions, lesions with histologically confirmed dysplasia or both. Most clinicians recommend a biopsy during follow-up of an OPL whenever the lesion changes in appearance. Conclusions. The findings of this survey may provide background for initial guidelines to be used by oral practitioners to diagnose and manage OPL. Clinicians' awareness of the complexity of OPL diagnosis and management is important, and referral to an experienced provider is recommended.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1555-1562
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of the American Dental Association
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2007


  • Diagnosis
  • Erythroplakia
  • Leukoplakia
  • Management
  • Oral premalignant lesions


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