Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology Unit

Oral Maxillofacial & Pathology Unit

The Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology unit is concerned with the diagnosis of diseases of the oral cavity, head and neck region, including oral and nasopharyngeal mucosal diseases, salivary and gland disease, jaws, teeth, lymph nodes and soft tissue tumours.

This national unit receives tissue biopsies and surgical resection specimens from various departments in the Dublin Dental University Hospital. It also provides a diagnostic service for the Dublin Dental University Hospital, St James Hospital, many oral surgeons, general dental practitioners and maxillofacial units throughout the country.

In addition to the day to day diagnostic service, the oral pathology team actively participate in many research projects, both laboratory based and clinical, in an effort to further our understanding of diseases of the head and neck region. Main interests are head and neck cancer, lichen planus, other mucosal diseases and the role of viruses in oral disease.

The unit has two lead consultants who are based partly in the Dublin Dental University Hospital and partly in the Central Pathology Laboratory, St. James’s Hospital, where the diagnostic laboratory is.

Guidelines for sending histological specimens to the diagnostic oral and maxillofacial pathology service, Central Pathology Laboratory, situated at St James’ Hospital.

The diagnostic oral pathology service is provided within the CPL in St James’s. The pathologists with responsibility for this service are Dr. Mary Toner, Associate Professor / Consultant in Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology (lead pathologist) and Dr. Esther O’Regan, Consultant in Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology.

Sending a specimen for the first time


Specimens should be accompanied by the histopathology laboratory form with all details completed. Forms can be downloaded from the St James website.


Remember: The value of the histopathology report that you will receive will greatly depend upon how much clinical information is provided. Details such as the relationship of a cyst to a tooth are vital. With mucosal lesions, be sure to state if the biopsy if excisional or incisional. If the case is unusual, it might be useful to speak to Dr. Toner or Dr. O’Regan.


Normally specimens should be sent in a container with plenty of formalin (10% formal saline). The laboratory does not provide the containers or fixative; specimen bottles containing fixative are available from various suppliers – contact the lab by telephone from information  (01- 4162033).

Note: Neither saline nor alcohol preserve tissue in a way that allows for adequate histologic interpretation. If there is a delay in getting fixative, best to keep the tissue in moist gauze in a fridge.


Current postal regulations forbid the posting of pathological specimens therefore a courier or delivery service must be used.
Specimens must be packaged according to packaging instruction UN No 3373. This in short requires that the primary formalin-filled container must be water-tight and leak-proof, and wrapped in absorbent material before placing in a secondary receptacle, which must also be a water-tight sealed container, strong enough to protect the primary formalin-filled container from damage. Both containers must be labelled. Forms and letters may be placed inside the secondary receptacle. The secondary receptacle should be sent within outer packaging e.g. an envelope. Containers suitable for outer packaging are available from various suppliers – contact the laboratory by telephone from information (01- 416 2033).


You can contact the laboratory secretarial office (administrative head: Laura Tier) by phoning 01-416 2992, or 416 2053 or Dr. Toner directly at 4162987.
If you need to send tissue fresh for any reason e.g. immunofluorescence studies, please contact the laboratory in advance for advice (01-416 2033.

Further contact details:

Dr. Mary Toner, Consultant Pathologist: mtoner@tcd.ie

Dr Esther O Regan eoregan@stjames.ie

Ronan Ward, Chief Medical Scientist: rward@stjames.ie