Leukoplakia – Is it a Concern?

The appearance of white or grey patches in the mouth can cause concern, prompting the need to identify these abnormalities and address any underlying issues. Leukoplakia, a relatively uncommon oral condition, typically manifests as white or grey patches on the tongue, inside the cheeks, gums or at the base of the mouth. This condition is most common amongst those with a long history of tobacco use, and it can occur amongst people of any age. Whilst mild instances typically resolve over time, moderate to severe leukoplakia warrants serious attention as it could indicate early signs of oral cancer. Here’s a comprehensive guide to understanding leukoplakia, including its origins, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment options. 

Understanding Leukoplakia 

Leukoplakia denotes the presence of white or grey patches within the oral cavity. While individuals of all ages can be affected, adults who consume an excessive amount of alcohol and/or tobacco are particularly susceptible. Although most cases of leukoplakia are benign, it serves as a potential precursor to oral cancer, underscoring the importance of seeking professional diagnosis promptly.  

Causes and Risk Factors: 

Several risk factors contribute to leukoplakia development, with tobacco use being a primary instigator. Other potential causes encompass: 

  • Alcohol Consumption – heavy drinkers face an elevated risk, which compounds when combined with tobacco usage. 
  • Mouth Irritation – Inadequately fitting dentures, friction or rough tooth surfaces may induce mouth sores. 
  • Human Papillomavirus (HPV) – Specific HPV strains may be associated with oral leukoplakia. 
  • Poor Oral Hygiene – Neglecting oral hygiene routines can foster leukoplakia development.  

Symptoms to Note: 

Leukoplakia symptoms can often go unnoticed, as they’re typically painless. However, individuals should remain vigilant for changes within the mouth, including: 

White or Grey Patches/Spots: These may manifest anywhere in the mouth, exhibiting varied shapes and textures.  

Irregular Borders: Leukoplakia patches often display uneven or irregular outer edges. 

Persistent Lesions: While mild cases typically resolve within weeks, persistent lesions warrant immediate dental consultation. 

Diagnosis of Leukoplakia: 

Glowing Smiles Dental have a wealth of experience in the diagnosis of leukoplakia. Initially, your dentist will conduct a comprehensive assessment which includes a thorough examination of your mouth, followed by discussion of medical history and habits. After a visual inspection of white/grey patches, a biopsy sample analysis may be undertaken to determine cellular characteristics.  

Treatment Options:  

Immediate treatment may not be necessary for leukoplakia. Depending on severity and malignancy potential, treatment approaches may include: 

  • Tobacco and Alcohol Cessation: Ceasing alcohol and tobacco use can halt progression and recurrence. 
  • Monitoring: Unchanging small patches are monitored during regular check-ups to prevent complications. 
  • Surgical Removal: Large or concerning patches may necessitate surgical intervention. 
  • Regular Follow-Ups: Regular appointments aid in monitoring healing progress and detecting recurrence. 

Concerned about Leukoplakia? Schedule an Appointment Today 

Alleviate concerns regarding leukoplakia and reduce your oral cancer risk by quitting tobacco, moderating alcohol intake and improving nutrition. If leukoplakia signs arise, don’t hesitate to book an appointment at Glowing Smiles Dental for professional evaluation and guidance.