Why You Might Need An Oral Biopsy

If you have a growth or legion in your mouth, you might need an oral biopsy to test it and make sure you are not in danger. Our Lethbridge periodontists discuss what this procedure is.

The Oral Biopsy Procedure

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 Might An Oral Biopsy Be Needed?

If you have a lesion that interferes with your oral function, you may need a biopsy to determine the cause so proper treatment can be prescribed. There may also be inflammatory changes affecting the oral cavity or bone lesions your dentist is unable to identify with x-rays or clinical examination.

A biopsy can also be performed if your dentist suspects you have oral cancer (which is found in the mouth, head and neck). If cancer has already been diagnosed, a biopsy can help determine the stage and extent of the cancer, as well as its source.

Oral and maxillofacial surgeons are trained to diagnose illnesses and injuries affecting the neck, jaw, face and mouth. You will be given a thorough examination of your neck and head prior to your biopsy starting. We may also refer you to an otolaryngologist (an ear, nose and throat doctor).

During an oral biopsy, a small sample of the suspicious tissue will be removed from your oropharynx or mouth and sent to a pathologist, where it will be checked for disease. A custom treatment plan will then be developed based on information in the pathologist’s report.

The Different 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

An oral surgeon will be the one to complete this type of biopsy. It allows them to obtain a representative sample of the oral lesion. If your oral lesion is large or has differing characteristics, more than one area may need to be sampled.

Punch Biopsy

This biopsy technique is 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 To Prepare For Your Biopsy

You do not need to do much to prepare for a biopsy appointment. If the biopsy will be performed on part of a bone, your dentist will recommend x-rays or CT scans first, and ask that you not eat anything for a few hours before the biopsy.

Once you arrive, you’ll typically be asked to rinse with antibacterial mouthwash. Local anesthesia is usually used and you will likely be awake for the procedure. However, you may be provided general anesthesia if the lesion is in an area of the mouth that’s hard to reach.

Will I Feel Pain During An Oral Biopsy?

Before your procedure starts you will be given a local anesthetic to numb the area so there should be no feeling of pain during your procedure. You may feel a small prick when you are injected with the anesthetic. The use of instruments may also result in some minor pressure as the sample is collected.

After anesthesia wears off, depending on where the biopsy was performed the site may feel sore for a few days. You may want to stick to soft foods and take over-the-counter medication for pain (avoid taking NSAIDS, which can increase the risk for 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 Lethbridge dentists can address any inquiries or concerns.

Do you have a concern about your oral health? Contact our Lethbridge periodontists to discuss your options or book a consultation.

Contact us today to book an appointment.

(403) 317-4867