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What to Expect from an Oral Biopsy

Posted on 1/27/2017 by Dr McMurray
A woman talking with her dentist about receiving an oral biopsy.
The word "biopsy" can often bring about fear, as it is usually associated with cancer. While an oral biopsy can help diagnose oral cancer in the dental field, the term is actually used to describe a procedure that is used to diagnose any lesion in the mouth that cannot be diagnosed by your dentist through any other means.

Here is what you can expect if you require an oral biopsy.

Types of Oral Biopsy

There are several types of oral biopsy:

•  Incisional biopsy, also known as a diagnostic biopsy, is used on large lesions.
•  Excisional biopsy is used for small lesions. While they are used for diagnostic purposes, they are also used as a treatment, as they remove the entire abnormality.
•  Frozen section biopsy gives an immediate diagnostic report by freezing the sample and then sectioning to stain and examine it.
•  Punch biopsy uses a special tool with a circular head to remove a section of the lesion. It is used most frequently for the back of the mouth.
•  Brush biopsy uses a brush to collect cells. It is usually used for detecting oral cancer and doesn't require anesthesia.

Biopsy Procedure

The oral biopsy procedure is a painless one. After your dentist thoroughly cleans the site, a local anesthetic is used to numb it, ensuring that you won't feel anything. A section of the lesion is removed to be examined microscopically. The procedure takes less than an hour and is closed with stitches. Results can be back as soon as two days, and if further treatment is needed, a plan is made.

Taking Care After the Procedure

Some pain and swelling is to be expected after the anesthetic wears off. Most pain can be managed with over the counter pain medication. Avoid taking aspirin, as it can thin the blood and cause further bleeding.

Swelling can be managed with an ice pack wrapped in a towel held against the cheek for 20 minute intervals during the first 24 hours. You should avoid strenuous activity as well as any rinsing during the first 24 hours as well, as it can lead to further swelling or bleeding.

You can eat normally following an oral biopsy, however, it is recommended that you avoid anything that is too hot, as it can irritate the surgical site. After the initial 24 hours, a warm salt water rinse, or an alcohol-free, antibiotic mouthwash, can help speed the healing while fighting off potential infection.

Oral biopsies are an excellent diagnostic tool for your dentist to ensure your dental health. If you have a lesion in your mouth that has been there for more than two weeks and hasn't responded to any other treatment, contact our office to schedule an exam today.

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