Hall Dental Centre


Making sense of incisional and excisional biopsies.

What is it?

A biopsy is a simple surgery to remove a sample of soft tissue or bone. It is done when a dentist or physician wants to have the sample examined in a laboratory.

The purpose is to find out the nature of an abnormality, called a lesion. It may be caused by an illness or an injury. The lesion may be an area of soft tissue or bone that appears unusual or diseased. It could be a new bump, or a patch of skin that has changed color or texture.

There are two types of biopsy: incisional and excisional.

Incisional: This type of biopsy removes a piece of tissue from a lesion. It is a sampling.

Excisional: This type of biopsy removes the entire lesion.

In both cases, the tissue is sent to a laboratory. The type of biopsy performed depends on many factors. For example, if the lesion is small and your dentist suspects that it is not cancerous (benign), an excisional biopsy may be done.

However, if the lesion is large or there is concern that it may be cancerous (malignant), an incisional biopsy is likely. What it's used for A biopsy is performed to diagnose the lesion. Whether the entire lesion is removed or just a sample, the tissue is examined under a microscope in the laboratory. This analysis leads to the diagnosis

How do I prepare?

For an oral biopsy, you may receive an antibacterial rinse to help prevent infection. The surgeon may also use a stain in your mouth to highlight the lesion. If you are having a bone biopsy, you will need X-rays or a computed tomography (CT) scan before the surgery. In adults, an oral biopsy is usually done in an office under local anesthesia while the patient is fully awake.

How is a biopsy done?

Lesions in soft tissue are removed with a scalpel, a "punch" instrument or a laser. Usually, the area is closed with stitches. A drill may be used to provide access to lesions in bone. Afterwards, the tissue over the bone is stitched closed.

What is the follow-up procedure?

You can take over-the-counter pain relievers for discomfort after a biopsy in your mouth. Some people may receive an antibacterial rinse, an antibiotic or both. In cases where something stronger is required, we'll prescribe pain medicine.

Eat soft foods and rinse gently with warm water for the first few days. We'll also make an appointment for you to return so that we can discuss the results of your biopsy – this is typically one to two weeks following the procedure.

Are there any risks?

Some types of oral surgery cause bleeding for the next few days. If there is excessive bleeding from a biopsy, contact your surgeon. There is a very small risk that the biopsy area will become infected after surgery.

The mouth contains thousands of bacteria, so most surgeons will use antibacterial rinses, antibiotics or both to help control infection. During the surgery, there is a small risk that the surgeon will damage a nerve or blood vessel. X-rays and your surgeon's knowledge of anatomy help minimize this risk.

When to call us

If you have increased swelling, fever, chills, persistent bleeding or numbness after a biopsy, contact your surgeon.

We're here to help! Learn more about biopsies

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All services provided by general dentists: Dr. Paul Hall, Dr. Pauline Hall and Dr. Todd ZoBell