Leukoplakia: Causes, Treatments And Prevention

Posted on: 16 June 2015


If you've noticed some odd different colored patches in your mouth, you may be wondering what exactly they could be. Particularly if you're a smoker or tobacco chewer, the sudden appearance of these patches may have you worried. What you may have is a condition called leukoplakia. Although leukoplakia is usually not serious, it can be a sign of something more serious. Here you can learn what leukoplakia is, what causes it, how you can remedy it and what preventative measures you can take to ensure it doesn't reappear as often.

What Is Leukoplakia?

Leukoplakia is the name for hard, white patches or lesions which cannot be scraped off and appear in your oral cavity. These white patches are actually small parts of the keratin layer in your mouth that have started to thicken. Leukoplakia only appears white due to the fact that the thickened keratin layer absorbs large amounts of saliva, allowing light to reflect off of the leukoplakia patch evenly.

Typically, these thickened patches will form on the inside of cheeks, underneath the tongue, or on your gums. Although it usually isn't dangerous, cancerous cells have been known to form where patches and lesions of leukoplakia have previously appeared.

What Causes Leukoplakia?

Although there is no real known cause for leukoplakia, it's most commonly seen in people who use tobacco. Whether you smoke or chew, tobacco appears to be the main cause of these lesions and patches forming. Alcohol consumption is also presumed to exacerbate the issue. Due to the constant heat and irritation of smoke from tobacco, the absorption of chemicals inside your mouth becomes easier. 

A form of leukoplakia, called hairy leukoplakia, is caused by the Epstein-Barr virus. People who have been infected with Epstein-Barr virus in the past live with the virus in their body forever, even if they don't show symptoms. When your immune system is weakened, the Epstein-Barr can cause hairy leukoplakia to emerge.


Make sure to examine your mouth on a routine basis and monitor any changes. Because the common cause appears to be tobacco use, the best and easiest way to take preventive action against leukoplakia is to abstain from any tobacco use. Various methods for quitting tobacco are available, and a doctor can help decide which might be best. Encourage friends or family who smoke to make regular visits to their dentist and examine their mouths periodically for any changes.

Alcohol consumption isn't a known cause for leukoplakia, but it's believed to aggravate the issue. Combining smoking with alcohol can make it easier for harmful chemicals to penetrate the tissues in your mouth. If you choose to continue drinking, drink in moderation.


Similar to prevention, the best way to way to remedy leukoplakia is to stop smoking until it clears up on its own. Refrain from drinking alcohol, as well. If you find the lesions and patches don't disappear after a few weeks, the best thing to do is visit your dentist.

Help From The Dentist

It's important to visit the dentist to ensure your leukoplakia is benign if the problem persists for more than a few weeks. Your dentist can help diagnose leukoplakia and refer you to treatment if they feel it's necessary.

There are a few methods for treating this disorder, depending on seriousness. The lesions can be removed by scalpel or laser or through cryotherapy, in which the infected cells are frozen and destroyed with a cold probe. Be sure to go in routinely for checkups after you have had your leukoplakia removed, as it is known to reoccur.

Although leukoplakia is rarely serious, it can be uncomfortable and embarrassing. Luckily, you should be able to address any issues that cause and worsen it quite easily, and with the help of your dentist, should be able to stop suffering from leukoplakia altogether.

For more information about dental services in your area, visit http://www.claremontdentalinstitute.com