Oral Biopsy – What to expect
Part of any dental exam includes a thorough intra-oral examination and x-rays. Dentists are trained to detect anything that is unusual inside the mouth including bumps, discolorations, or any abnormalities on an x-ray. Your dentist may refer you to an Oral Surgeon for a biopsy if there are any unusual findings inside your mouth. The purpose of a biopsy is to obtain a definitive diagnosis by surgical removal and evaluation of tissue under a microscope by a pathologist. Analysis of the tissue is done on a cellular level, and an official report is created. This report is then sent to the surgeon to guide further treatment, if necessary.
At my office, I will re-check the area of concern during your initial consultation and perform my own exam and documentation. A thorough medical and dental history is taken to guide clinical decision making. If indicated, I will also palpate the lymph nodes under the jaw and on both sides of the neck. We will discuss the likely cause for the growth and answer any questions that you may have. If a biopsy is warranted, the next step is to surgically remove the entire lesion or part of the lesion depending on the size and location. Most of the time, local anesthesia with lidocaine is sufficient to numb up the area of interest. This technique is identical to receiving a shot at the dentist for a filling or root canal. Once the area is numb, surgery can proceed and you should not feel any pain. Some patients may opt to receive IV sedation for the biopsy, which is a great option especially if there is any anxiety about the surgery.
After the tissue is surgically removed, it is placed in a special medium for transport to the pathology lab. A suture may be placed to close the surgical site, and often times I will use a self dissolving suture that will fall out about 5-7 days. As with any surgery inside the mouth, you can expect to be sore for a few days. It is also not uncommon to experience some mild bleeding for 24-48 hours. The results of the biopsy typically take 10 – 14 days to return, and I typically call my patients personally to discuss the results.
Oral squamous cell carcinoma is the most feared result from a biopsy. So what does oral cancer look like? If oral cancer could be diagnosed from its appearance, there would be no need to perform a biopsy. It can only be diagnosed through a physical biopsy and pathological examination under a microscope. The risk for oral cancer does increase with a history of cigarette smoking. In early stages of oral cancer, pain is typically absent. Thankfully, the majority of biopsies do not show any cancer or precancerous activity. Far more common are benign lesions that do not require any further treatment. One common example is hyperkeratosis, which is essentially a callus that forms inside your mouth from rubbing up against teeth, dentures, or retainers.
It is always a good idea to obtain a definitive diagnosis by way of a biopsy as soon as possible if there are any questions or uncertainty about a growth inside your mouth. If you discover anything new or unusual inside your mouth, please contact my office to schedule a consultation and exam- a referral from a dentist is not required. A prompt biopsy and diagnosis will allow timely treatment if necessary, and of course, peace of mind.
To your health and prosperity,
Daniel Yang DDS, MD
Yorba Linda Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery
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