As part of comprehensive oral health care, your dentist and hygienist will examine your mouth at your regular cleaning visits for any unusual lumps, bumps or tissue color changes.

If tissue changes are noticed, a referral will be made for further evaluation and possible removal of this tissue for biopsy. Once a sample of tissue is removed and examined under a microscope, a diagnosis can be made.

There are certain situations when a biopsy will be recommended, such as white and/or red tissue color changes, ulcerations that do not heal and patients with a history of tobacco or chronic alcohol use. White or red tissue color changes or symptoms in areas of the mouth that experience chronic irritation can be possible pre-cancerous changes up to 10 percent of the time. A biopsy can help to determine if treatment is necessary.

If a biopsy is not absolutely indicated and you are comfortable not having a microscope diagnosis, the area in question should be monitored every six months at your regular checkup by your dentist for changes in size, shape and color. If changes are noted or if the area should ever hurt, ulcerate or bleed, a biopsy would be recommended.

Biopsy procedures are easily performed in the office setting, typically with local anesthesia. Recovery times are just a few days with minimal pain or swelling.