A gum biopsy is a medical procedure in which a doctor removes a sample of tissue from your gums. The sample is then sent to a laboratory for testing. Gingiva is another word for gums, so a gum biopsy is also called a gingival biopsy. The gingival tissue is the tissue that immediately surrounds and supports your teeth.
Doctors use a gum biopsy to diagnose causes of abnormal gum tissue. These causes can include oral cancer and noncancerous growths or lesions.
Types of gum biopsies
There are several different types of gum biopsies.
An incisional gum biopsy is the most common method of gum biopsy. Your doctor will remove a portion of suspicious tissue and examine it under a microscope.
A pathologist can determine if there are cancerous cells in the removed gum tissue. They can also verify the origin of the cells, or if they’ve spread to the gum from somewhere else in your body.
During an excisional gum biopsy, your doctor may remove an entire growth or lesion.
This type of biopsy is normally used to take out a small lesion that’s easy to reach. Your doctor will remove the growth along with some of the nearby healthy tissue.
Percutaneous biopsies are procedures where a doctor inserts a biopsy needle through your skin. There are two different types: fine needle biopsy and core needle biopsy.
A fine needle biopsy works best for lesions that are easy to see and feel. A core needle biopsy provides more tissue than a fine needle biopsy. This can be useful when more tissue is required for your doctor to make a diagnosis.
A brush biopsy is a noninvasive procedure. Your doctor will gather tissue by forcefully rubbing a brush against the abnormal area of your gum.
A brush biopsy is often your doctor’s first step if your symptoms don’t call for an immediate, more invasive biopsy. It’s used for an initial evaluation.
If the test results show any suspicious or abnormal cells or cancer, your doctor will likely do an incisional or percutaneous biopsy to confirm a diagnosis.
What is a gum biopsy test used for?
A gum biopsy tests for abnormal or suspicious gum tissue. Your doctor may recommend it to help diagnose:
a sore or lesion on your gum that lasts longer than two weeks
a white or red patch on your gum
ulcers on your gum
swelling of your gum that doesn’t go away
changes in your gums that cause loose teeth or dentures
The information from the gum biopsy, along with the findings of imaging tests, can help your doctor diagnose gum cancer as early as possible. An earlier diagnosis means less scarring from removal of tumors and a higher rate of survival.
Are there any risks of a gum biopsy?
Prolonged bleeding and infection of the gums are two potentially serious, but rare, risks of a gum biopsy.
Contact your doctor if you experience:
excessive bleeding at the biopsy site
soreness or pain that lasts longer than a few days
swelling of the gums
fever or chills