Most of these lesions are tumors, but because some are caused by other etiologies, it is well to use the mnemonic MINT to review the possibilities.
M—Malformations include dermoid cysts, ranula, Wharton duct cysts or stones, mucous cysts, and thyroglossal cysts.
I—Inflammation should suggest peritonsillar abscesses, tonsillitis, sialadenitis, Ludwig angina, and actinomycosis. Alveolar abscesses and granulomas may present as a mass inside the mouth.
N—Neoplasms are most commonly squamous cell carcinomas and are usually ulcerated. Angiomas, lipomas, papillomas, and sarcomas also occur.
T—Trauma suggests subperiosteal and submucosal hematomas and fractures–dislocations.
Approach to the Diagnosis
Most of these lesions are referred to the oral surgeon for diagnosis and treatment, so an elaborate discussion of the workup is unnecessary in a text of this scope.
Obviously, cultures should be made in cases of suspected infectious granulomas, whereas biopsy or excision is the main diagnostic tool for neoplasms.