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 Leukoplakia are spots on the tongue, in the mouth, or on the inside of the cheeks.

What is Leukoplakia?

Leukoplakia is a condition that usually causes thick white or gray patches to form inside the mouth. Smoking is the most common cause. But other irritants can also cause this.

Mild Leukoplakia

Mild Leukoplakia is usually harmless and usually goes away on its own. More severe cases may be associated with oral cancer and require prompt treatment.

Regular dental care can prevent a recurrence.

Leukoplakia Causes

Leukoplakia affects the oral mucosa. The exact reason is unclear. This can be due to irritation such as:

  • Irritation from rough teeth.
  • Improperly fitted dentures, fillings, and crowns.
  • Smoking or other tobacco use (keratosis in smokers), especially pipe tobacco.
  • Holding chewed tobacco or snuff in your mouth for an extended period of time.
  • Drink a lot of alcohol.
  • Injury inside your cheek (maybe from biting).
  • Chronic body inflammation.
The disease is more common in older adults.

A type of oral leukoplakia called oral leukoplakia is caused by the Epstein-Barr virus. It is mainly seen in people living with HIV/AIDS. 

This can be one of the first signs of HIV infection. Oral hairy leukoplakia can also occur in other people whose immune systems are not working properly, such as after a bone marrow transplant.

Leukoplakia Symptoms

The spots in the mouth usually appear on the tongue (with oral hairy leukoplakia on the sides of the tongue) and the inside of the cheeks.

Leukoplakia Patches are:

  • Usually white or grey in color.
  • Uneven shape.
  • Blurred (oral hairy leukoplakia).
  • Slightly raised, hard surface.
  • Can't scrape off.
  • (Rare) red spots.
  • Pain when the oral patch comes in contact with acidic or spicy foods.

Redness can be a sign of cancer. Seek immediate medical attention if you have red spots.

Leukoplakia can appear on the gums, inside of the cheeks, under or on the tongue, and even on the lips. It can take weeks to develop a patch. They rarely suffer.

Some women may develop leukoplakia on the outside of the genitals in the vulvar area and vagina. This usually occurs in women going through menopause. This is a benign state. If you have more serious problems, you should contact your doctor.

Leukoplakia Treatment

Treatment for Leukoplakia includes removal of the irritant, if necessary. For example, if leukoplakia is caused by rough teeth or an irregular surface of dentures or fillings, the teeth can be flattened and the dental appliance restored. 

If smoking causes Leukoplakia, you will be asked to minimize or stop smoking or using other tobacco products.

Leukoplakia is usually harmless, and the lesions usually disappear within weeks or months of the irritant being removed. 

If removing the source of irritation is not effective in reducing Leukoplakia, surgical removal of the lesion may be required. Lesions can be removed by your family dentist or oral surgeon.

Hairy Leukoplakia needs to be treated with antiviral drugs.

Leukoplakia Prevention

Many cases of Leukoplakia can be prevented with lifestyle changes:

  • Quit smoking or chewing tobacco.
  • Cut back on alcohol.
  • Eat antioxidant-rich foods like spinach and carrots. Antioxidants can help eliminate stain-causing irritants.
  • If you think you have Leukoplakia, contact your doctor right away. They can help you keep the patch from getting worse.

Follow-up appointments are critical. Once you develop Leukoplakia, your risk of developing Leukoplakia again increases in the future.

Oral Leukoplakia

Leukoplakia describes a white patch or plaque of the oral mucosa that cannot be clinically or pathologically characterized as another disease.

What causes oral leukoplakia?

Leukoplakia can later be caused by any of the following conditions:

  • Oral carcinoma in situ (intraepithelial carcinoma).
  • Nicotine stomatitis.
  • Candidiasis.
  • Oral lichen planus.
  • Frictional keratosis.
  • Habitual biting of cheeks or lips.
  • Lupus erythematosus.
  • In children, the differential diagnosis includes dyskeratosis congenita and hyperhidrotic ectodermal dysplasia.

What is the treatment for oral leukoplakia?

Treatment for oral leukoplakia depends on its cause.