Oral Cancer Screenings

What is an Oral Cancer Screening?

Oral cancer screenings are a very important part of the dental visit for the patient. With the advances in modern technology, we are now able to pinpoint the start of a potential problem much earlier in its evolution. The ability to do so is extremely important in being able to treat any issues prior to them becoming a major irreversible problem.

The oral cancer screening is often completed with an ultraviolet light or similar device that allows us to view issues that can’t always be detected by the human eye under normal conditions.

Certain lifestyle choices can have a great impact on the health of tissues and your overall health in the mouth. If you are a smoker or heavy drinker, make sure to get regular screenings when you visit the dentist.

Top Areas to Examine

  • The Face

  • The Eyes

  • The Ears and Nose

  • The Neck

  • The Thyroid

  • The Lips, Tongue and Mouth

What to Expect from an Oral Cancer Screening

Visual Exam

The face, neck, lips, inside of the nose and oral cavity are all major parts of a screening for oral cancer. Before the screening, the patient must take out all removable dental appliances to expose every area.

Whether the patient is sitting upright or lying down, explains the Oral Cancer Foundation (OCF), a doctor or dentist looks for asymmetries, swellings, bumps, patches of color, ulcerations or other abnormalities. To look inside the nose and mouth, the doctor or dentist uses a light and mirror to see clearly, and a tongue depressor to hold down the tongue and look at the back of the mouth – much like your average physical. The patient may be asked to say “Ahh” to expose areas in the throat that are otherwise difficult to see. Other tools can help the doctor evaluate the gums, inner cheeks, roof of the mouth, tonsils, throat and underneath the tongue.

Physical Exam

After or during the visual exam, the doctor or dentist also touches the head and cheeks, around the jaw, under the chin and in the oral cavity to feel for unusual nodules or masses. Another sign of a potential problem is immobility in normally mobile tissue, and the patient may be asked whether physical contact there causes any discomfort. Oral cancer symptoms can be painful, but a painless swelling can still be a sign of problems elsewhere. The patient might also be asked to swallow while the throat is examined, according to the OCF.

Discovery and Diagnosis

Historically, it has been difficult to determine which abnormal tissues in the mouth are worthy of concern. The fact is, the average person routinely has conditions existing in their mouths that mimic the appearance of pre-cancerous changes, and very early cancers of the soft tissues. One study determined that the average dentist sees 3-5 patients a day who exhibit soft tissue abnormalities, most of which are benign in nature. Even the simplest things, such as apthous ulcers, herpes simplex, herpes labialis, the wound left by accidentally biting the inside of your cheek, or sore spots from a poorly fitting prosthetic appliance or denture, all at first examination, share similarities with dangerous lesions. Some of these conditions cause physical discomfort, others are painless. The question is which ones deserve action, and which ones bear watching and waiting?

There has been a tendency to watch these areas over an extended period to determine if they are dangerous or not. Unfortunately, this philosophy leads to a situation in which a dangerous lesion may continue to prosper and grow into a later stage, hard to cure cancer. Any sore, discoloration, induration, prominent tissue, irritation, hoarseness, which does not resolve within a two week period on its own, with or without treatment, should be considered suspect and worthy of further examination or referral. Besides a routine visit to the dental office for regular examinations, it is the patient’s responsibility to be aware of changes in their oral environment. When these changes occur, they need to be brought to the attention of a qualified dental professional for examination. The dental professional needs to be current in the knowledge base necessary to make a proper diagnosis, and be competent in the proper screening procedures to identify oral cancer.

What Our Happy Customers are Saying

Going to the dentist has always caused me anxiety, but not at Veenstra! The cleanings are fast and easy; and as for the fillings, I didn’t even feel the needle for the Novocain! All of the staff are so friendly and welcoming. I’ve never had to wait for an appt either! We see Dr. Eric and he’s the best!

Jen C.
Jen C.

Very friendly – Very professional. I recommend Dr. Eric without reservation.

Jeff W.
Jeff W.

The staff is very welcoming and friendly. Dr. Eric makes you feel at ease and the hygienists are outstanding! They cater to your needs/comfort and are very flexible with scheduling! I highly recommend!

Nicholas G.
Nicholas G.

ABSOLUTLEY AMAZING! I am so thrilled that Dr. Eric and his team were recommended! I have never felt more comfortable with a dentist; from the very first call to make an appointment the staff was helpful, friendly, and pleasant!

Alicia P.
Alicia P.

I’m a new patient and not normally a big fan of going to the dentist. However, I thought the hygienist (Nancy) and Dr. Eric did a SUPERB job during my dental appointment yesterday. Thank you so much … 🙂 !

George W.
George W.

Staff is friendly, knowledgeable, and they do a great job of accommodating people whom have had bad experiences in the past. Dr. Eric did an excellent job of explaining the process I was going through and why it needed to be done. His assistant went above and beyond explaining the condition I had and how to handle the recovery.

Ed P.
Ed P.

Why Choose Us?

  • Nice clean environment which is relaxing and also takes your mind off treatment.
  • The latest technology to offer the best treatment.
  • Imaging software to show what can be done to your smile before you have anything done.
  • Payment options to allow to spread the investment into affordable monthly payments

Meet Dr. Doug and Dr. Eric Veenstra

Dr. Eric, the oldest of four children to Dr. Doug and Patti Veenstra, was born and raised in Wyckoff, New Jersey.He graduated Eastern Christian HS in 1999, Calvin College (Grand Rapids, Michigan) in 2003, and UMDNJ (currently Rutgers Dental School) in 2007. Following graduation from Dental School, Dr. Eric joined his father, Dr. Doug, in his practice in Midland Park, NJ that was originally established in 1981. They have loved working together and feel blessed to continually grow in their service to the community where they’ve been for over 35 years.

Dr. Eric values providing the best treatment and the best experience for his patients. and that has led him to pursue hundreds of hours in advanced dental education. He specifically focused his education for several years to implant dentistry when he saw a need in his practice to give his patients the best treatment options available. He completed an externship from NYU Implant Continuum in 2010, an externship from the Misch International Implant Institute in 2012, and an AAID Maxicourse in Implant Studies from Rutgers University in 2015.

In 2013, he married his beautiful wife Kimberly and has since had two precious little girls: Madelyn and Dorothy, whom he couldn’t love more! He loves the time he gets to spend with his ‘Girls’ as well as enjoying sports, music, food and being surrounded by friends and family. Over the years he has coached children soccer teams, volunteered his dental abilities on mission trips to Honduras and Africa, and has always been involved with his church.

Dr. Eric truly enjoys taking the time to get to know his patients, considers them friends, and feels blessed to be able to care for them.

Veenstra Family Dental

Making Your Smile a Work of Art!


Call Us at (201) 447-0300