When you visit our office for an evaluation, we will be looking at your gums, teeth, and all your anatomical structures like the tongue, floor of the mouth, uvula, lips, palate etc. If during the exam we find any abnormalities on them, we will then need to do a biopsy.
A biopsy is a diagnostic procedure by which we remove a sample of tissue (incisional biopsy) or all of the abnormal tissue (excisional biopsy) for examination under the microscope by a pathologist. Early detection and treatment of a malignant lesion provides a better chance for a cure. Abnormal results could mean:
Oral Cancer: The most common causes of oral cancer are tobacco, alcohol, and HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) infection. Other causes include poor oral hygiene, irritation caused by ill-fitting dentures and rough surfaces on the teeth, poor nutrition, some chronic infections and combinations of these factors
In most cases biopsies are carried out under local anesthesia (an injection into the area to numb it). The injection takes a couple of minutes to work and means that the biopsy will be painless. A small piece of the gum tissue that appears abnormal is removed. The biopsy usually leaves a small hole that often requires stitching. In the majority of cases, the stitches used are dissolvable and take around two weeks to disappear.
The whole process (local anesthetic injection, biopsy and stitching) takes around 15 minutes from start to finish. The biopsy is then sent to a laboratory where a pathologist evaluates it under the microscope. The biopsy report not only helps establish a diagnosis, but also enables us to develop a specific plan of treatment.
There is no special preparation, although you may be told not to eat for a few hours before the biopsy.
After the numbness wears off, the area may be sore for a few days. Occasionally it is necessary to take simple painkillers (e.g. Ibuprofen or Tylenol). Usually any discomfort only lasts a few days. Most people are able to return to work later the same day.
Since the stitches are dissolvable, a review appointment is not always necessary but you will usually be given one so that the results of the biopsy can be discussed with you.
Self-examination should be performed monthly. When doing your examination, look for the following:
White patches of the oral tissues (leukoplakia)
Red and white patches (erythroleukoplasia)
A sore that fails to heal and bleeds easily
Difficulty chewing or swallowing
A mass or lump in the neck
An abnormal lump or thickening of the tissues of the mouth
Chronic sore throat or hoarseness