Mouth biopsy

Why do I need a mouth biopsy?

Your surgeon has diagnosed you with a condition (we often use the word 'lesion') which needs to be confirmed with a pathologist. We see a number of lesions in the mouth, and some can look very like others - and in order to treat you properly it is essential that we know the correct diagnosis.

What is a biopsy?

To confirm a diagnosis, the pathologist requires a small piece of tissue to look at under the microscope. Your surgeon can either do an incisional biopsy - where only a small piece of the lesion is removed , or an excisional biopsy - where the entire lesion is removed.

How is it done?

The majority of biopsies are done using a local anaesthetics - a bit like the injection that you may have had at the dentist to have (for example) a filling. The small piece of tissue is removed after the surgeon has confirmed that you are numb. You will requires some sutures (stitches) - these will dissolve after two or three weeks, although occasionally your surgeon will choose to remove them for you.

How long will it take?

After you've signed your consent form, the whole process should take no longer than 10 or 15 minutes.

Will it be painful?

The local anaesthetic will last approximately one to two hours, and it is advisable for you to take some paracetamol or ibuprofen (according to your medical history) - or whatever you would take for a headache. The discomfort should wear off after a few days, but be careful not to damage yourself when eating whilst you're still numb.

Are there any complications?

Bleeding is unusual, but if it does happen press gently on the biopsy site with the gauze swabs you'll be sent home with. This should stop any bleeding.

Swelling is unlikely, and infection equally unlikely. If you are concerned that you may have an infection, please contact your surgeon for a review appointment.

Will I need to take any time off work?

This is unlikely, but everyone is different - and it might depend upon what you do for a living.

What can I do to help healing?

Be careful whilst you're numb, it's easy to hurt yourself when you're eating or drinking. The day after surgery, you should start rinsing with warm salt mouthrinses two or three times a day. Whilst it's important to keep your teeth clean, be careful not to hurt yourself when brushing your teeth.

Do I need to come back for another appointment?

This will be discussed with you at the time of your biopsy, it isn't always necessary to have a review appointment and we understand that patients lead busy lives and can't make time to attend for review appointments. If you don't have a review appointment, then arrangements will be made to provide you with your biopsy results by mail, telephone or email.