With leukoplakia thickened white patches form on gums, the insides of cheeks, the bottom of the mouth and sometimes on the tongue. These patches can't be scraped off.
Doctors don't know what causes leukoplakia but consider chronic irritation from tobacco — whether smoked, dipped or chewed — to be the main culprit in its development.
Most leukoplakia patches are noncancerous, though some show early signs of cancer. Cancers on the bottom of the mouth can occur next to areas of leukoplakia. And white areas mixed in with red areas (speckled leukoplakia) may indicate the potential for cancer.
When to see a doctor
Even though leukoplakia doesn't usually cause discomfort, sometimes it can indicate a more serious condition.
Patient need to consult dentist or primary care professional in case of the following:
Most often,doctor diagnoses leukoplakia by:
Testing for cancer
The doctor will likely test for early signs of cancer by:
For most people, removing the source of irritation ― such as stopping tobacco or alcohol ― clears the condition.
When this isn't effective or if the lesions show early signs of cancer, the treatment plan may involve:
Follow-up visits to check the area. Once you've had leukoplakia, recurrences are common.
Treating hairy leukoplakia
Usually, you don't need treatment for hairy leukoplakia. The condition often causes no symptoms and isn't likely to lead to mouth cancer.