Leukoplakia: Diagnosis and Treatment of This Soft Tissue Condition

By markplatt on November 08, 2014

A woman undergoing a dental examThe team at Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Associates has been helping patients in and around the greater Montgomery, Troy, and Prattville area. We are particularly effective when diagnosing and treating advanced dental problems and oral pathology issues, with a focus on both the hard tissues and soft tissues of a patient's mouth.

The condition known as leukoplakia is one that many patients have experienced but not many patients actually understand or know by name. Let's take a moment right now to consider the nature of leukoplakia and why it ought to be carefully checked.

What is leukoplakia?

Leukoplakia refers to a condition in which white or pale lesions begin to form on the insides of your cheeks, the bottom portion of the mouth, or even your tongue.

Is leukoplakia dangerous?

In general, leukoplakia is not harmful and simply an aesthetic issue. While that covers the vast majority of cases, keep in mind that leukoplakia is sometimes a warning sign of oral cancer.

Just to be on the safe side, any oral lesions ought to be taken seriously as soon as they occur until they can be determined otherwise benign in nature.

The Common Causes of Leukoplakia

The most common cause of leukoplakia is smoking and the use of smokeless tobacco. The vast majority of leukoplakia cases are seen in people who smoke. Estimates from the Mayo Clinic suggest that three-quarters of people who use tobacco products will experience leukoplakia during their lives.

In addition to tobacco product use, leukoplakia is sometimes seen in people who wear dentures or bridges, have teeth that are rough or uneven, or bite the insides of their cheeks.

Symptoms of Leukoplakia

Common symptoms of leukoplakia include:

  • Pale white or grey discoloration on soft tissues of the mouth
  • Upraised or thick surfaces formed on the soft tissues of the mouth
  • Irregular texture of the affected parts of the mouth

A fuzzy or hairy sensation to tongue lesions may also be experienced in those who suffer from leukoplakia as well as autoimmune diseases or conditions. This is referred to as hairy leukoplakia.

Diagnosis of Leukoplakia

Your dentist will be able to detect leukoplakia simply from checking the tissues and structures of your mouth. A tissue sample will often be removed to be analyzed in the lab to determine if any further treatment will be necessary. This is an important test to determine if cells are cancerous.

Treatment Options for Leukoplakia

In many cases, the ideal treatment option for leukoplakia is minor oral surgery to remove the affected patches. When caught early, the procedure is not particularly invasive. Follow-up visits will help address any recurring leukoplakia, as recurrences are common.

If the leukoplakia is a sign of oral cancer, it's important that patients receive medical treatment as soon as possible.

Prevention of Leukoplakia

The best treatment for leukoplakia is actually prevention. The following tips will help keep these discolored lesions away:

  • Quit smoking/using tobacco products
  • Drink alcohol in moderation
  • Visit your dentist twice a year for regular checkups

Learn More About Your Options for Advanced Dental Care

For more information about leukoplakia and many other conditions that may affect your overall health and wellness, be sure to contact the surgeons at our oral surgery centers today. The entire team at Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Associates looks forward to meeting you in person and helping you make wise decisions about your dental health and general wellness.

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