Why would my dentist recommend an oral biopsy?

Are you curious about what to expect from your oral biopsy and why you need one? Our Penticton dentists will walk you through the procedure and answer any questions you may have about this dental procedure.

What is an oral biopsy?

An oral biopsy is a surgical procedure to take tissue from the patient’s oral cavity to examine, typically so a diagnosis can be made.

Why would an oral biopsy be recommended?

If you have a lesion that impairs your oral function, you may require a biopsy to ascertain the cause and to prescribe the appropriate treatment. Additionally, there may be inflammatory changes in the oral cavity or bone lesions that your dentist cannot detect with x-rays or clinical examination.

Additionally, if your dentist suspects you have oral cancer, a biopsy can be performed (which is found in the mouth, head and neck). If cancer has already been diagnosed, a biopsy can assist in determining cancer's stage and extent, as well as its source.

Oral and maxillofacial surgeons diagnose and treat a range of illnesses and injuries affecting the neck, jaw, face and mouth. During your appointment, a thorough exam of your head and neck will be done and an oral biopsy performed. We may also refer you to an otolaryngologist (an ear, nose and throat doctor).

During an oral biopsy, a small sample of suspicious tissue from your oropharynx or mouth is removed and sent to a pathologist for examination for disease. Following that, a customized treatment plan will be developed based on the information contained in the pathologist's report.

Types of Oral Biopsies

The 6 types of oral biopsies include:

Aspiration Biopsy

A needle and syringe are used to remove a sample of cells or contents from a lesion. If the oral surgeon is not able to drain fluid or air, it may mean the lesion is solid.

Brush Biopsy

The surgeon applies firm pressure with a circular brush, rotating it to pick up cellular material that will later be transferred to a glass slide, preserved and dried.


This type of oral biopsy aids in the diagnosis of lesions in the oral cavity. These lesions may be caused by infections, herpes or post-radiation changes.

Though individual cells can be examined, an accurate and definitive diagnosis may not be possible without an excisional or incisional biopsy also being performed.

Excisional Biopsy

Performed for small oral lesions (typically measuring less than 1 cm) that appear benign during a clinical exam, an excisional biopsy completely removes the lesion.

Incisional Biopsy

This type of biopsy is performed by your surgeon to obtain a representative sample of the oral lesion. If your oral lesion is large or has distinct characteristics, it may be necessary to sample more than one area.

Punch Biopsy

Best suited for diagnosing oral manifestations of ulcerative and mucocutaneous conditions of the oral cavity (such as lichen planus), a punch biopsy is completed using a punch tool.

How should I prepare for my oral biopsy?

You do not need to take any special precautions in preparation for your biopsy appointment. If the biopsy will be performed on a portion of a bone, your dentist will first recommend x-rays or CT scans and will ask you to fast for several hours before the biopsy.

Upon arrival, you will typically be instructed to rinse your mouth with an antibacterial mouthwash. Typically, local anesthesia is used, and you will remain awake throughout the procedure. However, if the lesion is located in a difficult-to-reach area of the mouth, you may be given general anesthesia.

Is an oral biopsy painful?

You should experience no discomfort during the procedure – perhaps a quick pin-prick or pinch as the local anesthetic is injected or as the needle is used to take the biopsy. The use of instruments may also result in some minor pressure being applied during the collection of the sample.

After the anesthesia wears off, the biopsy site may feel sore for several days, depending on the location of the biopsy. You may want to avoid hard foods and take over-the-counter pain medication (avoid taking NSAIDs, which can increase the risk of bleeding).

If you experience significant pain from the biopsy, you may be prescribed pain medications.

Do you have questions about your upcoming oral biopsy? Our Penticton dentists can address any inquiries or concerns.

Do you have questions about an upcoming oral biopsy at Eckhardt Dental Centre? Our Penticton dentists can address inquiries or concerns you may have. Contact us today.

Welcome to Eckhardt Dental Centre

We want to help keep your smile healthy and happy. Contact our Penticton clinic to make an appointment with our dental team.

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