Aim: To investigate biopsy procedures in general dental practice.
Objectives: To assess the views and attitudes of: specialists on the dental specialist surgical registers; dentists in general practice (GDPs) and patients undergoing biopsy procedures.
Method: Questionnaires were sent to 98 oral and maxillofacial surgeons and surgical dentists, 335 general dental practitioners and 220 patients attending the Oral Medicine Clinic at the Dental Hospital, Manchester. Participation rates were 68 (74%), 227 (72%), and 158 (76%) respectively.
Results: Specialists: 47 (70%) would discourage dental practitioners undertaking biopsies. Concerns were a lack of skills and delays in referral; 20 (30%) considered GDPs should be able to perform simple biopsies for benign lesions. Dentists: 33 (15%) reported they had performed oral biopsies in the last two years; 136 (60%) felt they should be competent to biopsy benign lesions. Their main concerns were lack of practical skills and the risk of diagnostic error.
Patients: 112 (65%) worried about their biopsy result, 67 (39%) would feel anxious if their dentist did the biopsy, although 40 (23%) were anxious when biopsied in the oral medicine clinic.
Conclusions: Both specialists on the dental surgical registers and GDPs feel there is a need for further training in biopsy technique for GDPs and better advertised and accessible pathology support. The current fee for biopsies may need upward revision. A main concern of patients is fear of an adverse biopsy report. Whilst patients are satisfied with specialist management any concerns were an insufficient reason for biopsy of a benign lesion not being undertaken in general practice.