About Brush Biopsy

About Brush BiopsyDelta Dental of Missouri is among the first dental benefits companies in the nation to add coverage of the innovative brush biopsy procedure, which uses break-through technology to identify and analyze precancerous and cancerous cells. This is an important new benefit, since oral cancer is among the deadliest of cancers. Survival rate is about 50 percent when diagnosed in later stages, but with early diagnosis, the rate improves to over 80 percent.

CDx Laboratories, Inc. of New York holds a patent on the brush biopsy technology and is working closely with Delta Dental of Missouri to raise awareness about the opportunity this procedure offers to reduce medical costs and to save lives.

In about 10 percent of patients, dentists may see red or white spots in the mouth. Although most of these are harmless, some are not. If the dentist determines that the tissue needs to be tested, the brush biopsy can be performed quickly and relatively painlessly. The sample can then be sent to the laboratory for a computer-assisted analysis.

Delta Dental will pay the approved percentage of the procedure fee for covered patients. As with other oral biopsies, the lab fee is generally covered by the patient’s medical plan.

Early Detection is Critical. Did You Know:

  • Each year, oral cancer claims as many lives as skin cancer and more than cervical cancer.
  • Risk factors for oral cancer include smoking, tobacco chewing and drinking alcohol. However, 25 percent of cases have no risk factors at all.
  • Oral cancer is rising in women, those younger than 40, and nonsmokers.
  • More than 8,000 Americans die from oral cancer every year.
  • Annually, approximately 34,000 Americans are diagnosed with oral cancer.
  • Many who survive oral cancer are often disfigured and experience a compromised lifestyle.

The five-year rate of survival for this type of cancer has not improved significantly over the past 40 years. It has remained at about 50 percent because the disease is often difficult to detect.

With early detection, however, the survival rate improves dramatically to more than 80 percent. It can even be prevented if found in the precancerous stage.


Frequently Asked Questions

What is a "brush biopsy"?

Brush biopsy is a diagnostic test used to detect precancer or early oral cancer. A dentist uses a small brush to take a tissue sample from your mouth and then sends it to a laboratory for computer-assisted analysis.

Does it hurt?

A brush biopsy is quick, accurate and involves little or no discomfort.

Will everyone have the test performed?

No. Brush biopsy is a diagnostic test, not a screening test. In about 10 percent of patients, a dentist may see red or white spots in the mouth. Most are harmless, but some are not. To be sure, the dentist may want to test the spot using a brush biopsy.

What does Delta Dental cover?

Delta Dental offers coverage for the dentist's fee to perform the brush biopsy and to collect the cell sample. This procedure is covered for plans that offer coverage for oral surgery, and covered at the same level as other oral surgeries, e.g. a scalpel biopsy. Plans not currently covering oral surgery may also elect this coverage. Generally, the patient's medical carrier will pick up the cost of the laboratory analysis. Please check with your medical carrier for coverage information.

How important is it to diagnose oral cancer in its early stages?

It can be a matter of life and death. This year, more than 8,000 people will die from oral cancer and 36,000 will be diagnosed. The survival rate for oral cancer is about 50 percent, but when found early, it dramatically increases to over 80 percent.

Who is at risk for oral cancer?

People who smoke, use chewing tobacco, or drink alcohol are at the highest risk. However, 25 percent of those diagnosed have no risk factors at all. Even more alarming, studies show oral cancer is increasing in women, people younger than 40, and nonsmokers.

Is there more information available on Brush Biopsy?

A summary of information on brush biopsy is available in our downloadable article. More information is also available from the manufacturer of the Brush Biopsy test kit, OralCDx. If you wish, refer your dentist to OralCDx's web site or have him or her call them at 877-672-5722.

Can my dentist find other diseases?

Yes, because many diseases can cause signs and symptoms in and around the mouth and jaw. Dentists can identify more than 120 diseases.

Back to Top…


Dentists: Disease Detectives -
Dentists Find Clues to General Health Disorders

The early detection of serious medical conditions is being made in an unexpected place - the dentist's office. Because many diseases can cause specific signs and symptoms in and around the mouth and jaw, dentists see clues that may point to critical health issues. As a result, increasing numbers of dentists are urging their patients to seek medical tests that may seem unrelated to their dental checkups.

"More than 120 signs and symptoms of disease can now be detected through a routine oral exam", says David Haynes, president and chief executive officer of Delta Dental of Missouri. "Regular dental checkups are more important than ever, not only for oral health, but for general well-being."

In addition, dentists perform thorough oral cancer examinations including inspection of the oral cavity and neck. Since cancers of the mouth, tongue and jaw are usually first discovered during dental examinations, dentists are at the forefront for saving lives.

Oral Clues that May Indicate a Serious Health Problem:

  • Anemia: Burning fiery red tongue, inflammation of the corners of mouth or pale gum tissues.
  • Diabetes: Dry mouth, distinctive breath odor, burning tongue, high rate of tooth decay, inflammation and infections in the mouth.
  • Anorexia nervosa and bulimia: Chemical erosion of tooth enamel; fillings may appear to be raised above the eroded tooth surfaces; sensitive teeth; enlargement of the parotid glands, making the face look full and round; sweet aroma of the patient's breath.
  • Kidney failure: Retarded tooth development in children, dry mouth, odor, metallic taste and ulcers on the tongue and gums.
  • Deficient immune system (HIV positive): Unexplained sore(s), red mouth due to opportunistic yeast infections (thrush mouth), non-removable white areas on the sides of the tongue.
  • Heart disease: Pain radiating to the jaw caused by insufficient oxygen to the heart muscle.