A biopsy is a procedure where a small piece of tissue is removed from an area so that it can be looked at closely under a microscope.
The biopsy may aim to remove an area completely (an excision biopsy). This is usually only appropriate for small lumps or swellings. Occasionally only a small piece of an abnormal area is removed to confirm a diagnosis (an incisional biopsy).
In most cases, biopsies are carried out under local anesthesia, which is an injection into the area to numb it. The injection takes a couple of minutes to work and means that the biopsy will be painless. The biopsy usually leaves a small hole that often requires stitching. In the majority of cases, the stitches used are dissolvable and take around two weeks to disappear.
The whole process (local anesthetic injection, biopsy, and stitching) usually takes around 15 minutes from start to finish.
Be careful not to bite numb areas of your mouth. On the day of surgery, you should avoid rinsing your mouth out vigorously as this may cause bleeding. You should clean your teeth normally, including those teeth next to the site of the biopsy. If you find that food catches around the stitches then the area can be gently rinsed with a mouthwash or warm salt water (dissolve a teaspoon of kitchen salt in a cup of warm water) commencing on the day after surgery.
Since the stitches are dissolvable a review appointment is not always necessary but you will usually be given one so that the results of the biopsy can be discussed with you.