How Long Does an Oral Biopsy Take to Heal
The time it takes to heal from an oral biopsy ranges from 2-3 days to 2 weeks, depending on the location and type of biopsy done

The time it takes to heal from an oral biopsy ranges from 2-3 days to 2 weeks, depending on the location and type of biopsy done:

  • If the biopsy is done under local anesthesia without stitches, pain and discomfort will last only for the initial 2-3 days. After this, there should be gradual improvement.
  • If the biopsy requires stitches, it may take up to 2 weeks to heal completely.

What is an oral biopsy?

An oral biopsy involves removing a small tissue sample from your mouth or oropharynx to detect the presence or absence of cancerous cells. It is performed as an outpatient procedure.

Oral biopsies are used to diagnose conditions such as oral cancer:

An oral biopsy helps your doctor evaluate the exact cause of lesions or lumps and determine whether they are benign, precancerous, or cancerous.

What are different types of oral biopsy?

According to the American Cancer Society, there are three types of oral biopsy:

  1. Fine-needle aspiration biopsy or cytology: A fine thin needle is used to draw fluid or cells from the lump in the neck after numbing the affected area.
  2. Exfoliative cytology: This is a quick, noninvasive, and painless method that involves gently scraping cells from the suspicious oral area.
  3. Incisional or excisional biopsy: With incisional biopsy, a sample of the tissue is cut using either local anesthesia or general anesthesia. With excisional biopsy, the entire suspicious area is removed.

When is an oral biopsy needed?

Oral biopsies are recommended in the following cases:

  • Diagnosing the cause of oral symptoms such as mouth sores, patches (red or white) on the tongue or gums, altered taste sensation, and difficulty swallowing
  • Oral lesions that persist for more than 2 weeks even after removing local irritants
  • Diagnostic confirmation of suspected malignant lesions and chronic ulcerations
  • Diagnosis of precancerous lesions such as leukoplakia or erythroplakia
  • Lesions associated with pain, paresthesia, or anesthesia

Is an oral biopsy painful?

An oral biopsy is typically painless. However, according to the Radiological Society of North America, you may feel a sharp pinch or pinprick from the needle used to inject the local anesthetic or needle used to take the biopsy.

You may experience mild pain 4-6 hours after the biopsy or after the local anesthetic wears off, which can be treated with oral painkillers (acetaminophen and Nurofen).

Swelling may be observed within 2-3 days after the surgical procedure and can be reduced by ice pack application on the biopsy site for the initial 2 days.

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How is oral cancer diagnosed?

According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, approximately 53,000 Americans are diagnosed with oral or oropharyngeal cancer every year. In most cases, oral cancer is diagnosed by an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) doctor or a dentist during a routine examination.

If cancer is suspected, your dentist or ENT doctor will refer you to a specialist—either an oral and maxillofacial surgeon or an otolaryngologist—for a further examination to evaluate the stage of cancer before any treatment is planned.

Further tests usually involve scans to check whether cancer has spread to nearby tissues, such as the jaw or skin, as well as to check whether it has spread to the lymph glands in the neck. These tests may include:

These tests can help determine cancer staging and grading. Early detection of oral cancer can boost the chances of survival by 50%-90%.

What to do after an oral biopsy

After an oral biopsy, take the following steps to reduce pain and promote healing:

  • Start taking pain relievers before the anesthesia wears off (usually within 2-3 hours)
  • Avoid hot, spicy, or sharp foods
  • Avoid biting the area of the biopsy site
  • Brush your teeth gently 
  • Avoid rinsing vigorously
  • Do not use a mouth rinse other than warm saltwater
  • Drink liquids or pureed foods (soups, puddings, and milkshakes) for the initial 2-3 days
  • Avoid smoking for at least 72 hours, as smoking this can raise the risk of wound infection
  • Place fresh gauze over the area and press it gently if there is oozing or slight bleeding

Contact your doctor if you notice the following:

  • Increased redness or soreness or at the biopsy site
  • Persistent bleeding
  • Increase in swelling
  • Severe pain
  • Nausea and vomiting

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Medically Reviewed on 3/25/2022
References
Image Source: iStock Images

Oral Biopsy. European Association of Oral Medicine: https://eaom.eu/education/eaom-handbook/oral-biopsy/?v=c86ee0d9d7ed

Oral Cancer. Stanford Health Care: https://stanfordhealthcare.org/medical-conditions/cancer/oral-cancer.html