What is a biopsy?

A biopsy is a simple surgery that removes samples of soft tissue or bone from the tongue, cheek, jaw or gum tissue. Biopsies are performed so that the sample may be looked at in the laboratory. The goal is to find the source of the abnormalities or lesions. They may be caused by illnesses or injuries. The lesions may be in an area of soft tissue or bone that looks abnormal. This can be a lump or a patch of skin that has a different color or texture.

There are two types of biopsies; “incisional” and “excisional”. Incisional biopsies will remove a piece of tissue from the lesion and sample it while an excisional biopsy will remove the entire lesion altogether.

Determining what type of biopsy will be performed will depend on several factors: If the lesion is tiny and the likelihood is that it is benign or not cancerous, then an excisional biopsy will be made. If the lesion is large or there is a chance that it is malignant or cancerous, then incisional biopsy will be made.

What are biopsies used for?

Biopsies are used for removing lesions altogether or partially so that they can be examined in the laboratory. Biopsies are usually done to diagnose a lesion and/ or to rule out a cancerous lesion.
For adults, most oral biopsies are done in the office using local anesthesia with the patient fully conscious. However, in some cases general anesthesia or IV sedation may be recommended for patient comfort.

How is a biopsy done?

Lesions of soft tissue are removed using a scalpel or a laser and then the area is sutured closed. If there is a lesion of the bone, overlying tissue is incised then the tissue over the bone is stitched closed.

What are the follow-up procedures for a biopsy?

You should eat soft foods, rinse with warm saltwater, and use antibacterial rinses for the first few days. You may also need to take antibiotics.  An appointment will be scheduled for 10-14 days after the procedure in order to get the results of the biopsy and to make sure that you are healing properly.

What are the risks of a biopsy?

Certain types of oral surgery may cause bleeding for up to 24 hours.  If there is excessive bleeding from a biopsy you must get in touch with your oral surgeon. Due to the amount of bacteria in the mouth there is a small chance the area may become infected after the surgery. Dr. Grecco may recommend that you use antibacterial rinses, antibiotics, or both in order to minimize the risks of infection. During the surgery, there is a risk of damage to nerves, blood vessels, and other nearby structures. X-rays, experience and knowledge of anatomy will help minimize these risks.

If there is increased swelling, chills, fever, and/or persistent bleeding or numbness after a biopsy you should contact your oral surgeon right away.