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Why Would I Need a Biopsy During My Dental Exam?

Why Would I Need a Biopsy During My Dental Exam?

When you practice good oral hygiene, making regular trips to the dentist can seem like a waste of time. However, these visits involve more than getting a professional cleaning. They’re also the perfect opportunity to detect potential issues before they become serious — and we’re not just talking about cavities and gum disease.

According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 54,540 cases of oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancers get diagnosed each year in the United States. These types of oral cancer most often occur in the:

Oral cancers can also develop in the lips, roof of the mouth, minor salivary glands, and other locations.

Caesar Sweidan, DDS, and Laura Smith, DDS, at Gulf Coast Periodontics & Implants in Gulfport, Mississippi, screen their patients for oral cancer during every dental exam. If they see something suspicious — or if you have symptoms that could indicate a problem — they might recommend a biopsy.

How a biopsy works

When you have a biopsy, Dr. Sweidan or Dr. Smith takes a tiny sample of tissue or cells to analyze for abnormalities. This test is the only way to confirm a cancer diagnosis, but there are different types of biopsies depending on the concern.

Brush or exfoliative cytology biopsy

During this biopsy, Dr. Sweidan or Dr. Smith uses a round brush to gently scrape the suspicious area in your mouth. Then, they place the sample on a glass slide for analysis. 

This test doesn’t show all forms of cancer, so you could need a different biopsy afterward. However, it’s often a good starting point, because it causes little discomfort and it’s easy.

Fine needle aspiration (FNA) biopsy

These biopsies use a thin needle that extracts cells from inside a suspicious growth. Dr. Sweidan or Dr. Smith also puts these biopsies on a glass slide for testing.

Experts typically use an FNA biopsy for masses in the neck rather than for abnormal areas in the throat or mouth.

Incisional biopsy

When you have an incisional biopsy, Dr. Sweidan or Dr. Smith removes a small section of suspicious tissue as well as some healthy tissue. This allows them to compare the samples for abnormalities or potential issues.

Excisional biopsy

This type of biopsy is a way to diagnose and treat some types of oral cancer, because it removes the entire growth from your mouth for testing. 

After discussing your symptoms or spotting an area of concern, Dr. Sweidan or Dr. Smith can make personalized recommendations on which biopsy is right for you.

When you could need a biopsy

There are several reasons why Dr. Sweidan or Dr. Smith could recommend an oral biopsy. For example, they may recommend one due to issues you notice or due to issues they detect during your dental exam.

Common reasons for an oral biopsy include the following:

If you notice any of these issues and they last more than two weeks, you should make an appointment with Dr. Sweidan or Dr. Smith. You shouldn’t wait until your next dental exam. The sooner they can rule out other causes, such as infection, the quicker they can create a course of action.   

Meanwhile, you can reduce your risk for oral cancers by avoiding tobacco products, excessive alcohol consumption, and too much sun exposure. However, the exact cause of oral cancer isn’t always known, so making regular dental exams a priority can help you detect potential problems as early as possible, which is usually when they’re the most treatable.   

To see Dr. Sweidan or Dr. Smith regarding a dental concern, or to get a cleaning or any other dental treatment, call 228-868-9615 or request an appointment online with Gulf Coast Periodontics & Implants today.  

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