What is Leukoplakia?

Leukoplakia is also known as idiopathic white patch, idiopathic keratosis, and idiopathic leukoplakia and most often refers to a condition where areas of keratosis (a horny growth on the skin) show up as firmly attached white patches on the mucous membranes of the oral cavity and appears on the inside of the cheek, on the tongue, and on the inside the mouth.

The exact cause of Leukoplakia is not know but it could be due to irritation caused by drinking a lot of alcohol, smoking, rough teeth, holding chewing tobacco in the mouth for extended periods of time, and Sanguinaria which is an herbal extract used in some mouthwashes and toothpastes. This disorder tends to be more common in older adults.

What are the Symptoms of Leukoplakia?

Most cases of Leukoplakia cause no symptoms but sometimes there may be discomfort or pain.

Leukoplakia may appear white, grey, or whitish yellow. The most common sites affected are the labia mucosa, the buccal mucosa, and the alveolar mucosa. White or grey patches on the tongue, gums, roof of the mouth, or the inside of the cheeks may have developed over weeks and months and appear thick, slightly raised, and may even take on a rough and hard texture.

Leukoplakia Causes

The exact cause of leukoplakia is not known. It’s principally linked to tobacco use. Below are other associated causes.

Oral cancer has been linked to leukoplakia although on rare occasions. Similarly, people infected with HIV/AIDS also are at high risk of getting leukoplakia due to an interference with the body immunity. A short-term fungal infection of the mouth known as candidiasis can also cause this disease. Infection with the human papilloma virus and the non-infectious oral lichen planus have been cited as possible causes of leukoplakia

Long time exposure of lips to the sun, poor oral hygiene, long-term alcohol consumption, as well as severe or frequent burning of the mouth from hot liquids or foods are all prerequisites of leukoplakia.

Frictional Kerasotes caused by misaligned teeth, ill-fitting dentures, or long-term cheek biting can all cause this condition. Likewise, jagged, sharp, or broken teeth rubbing on tongue surfaces can also lead to leukoplakia.

Chewing certain nuts and leafs, such as areca nuts and betel leaves are believed to cause the condition. Furthermore, a person suffering from vitamin A or B deficiency is likely to get leukoplakia.

How is Leukoplakia Treated?

It’s important to treat dental causes such as rough teeth, fillings, or an irregular denture surface as soon as possible. The individual should also cease smoking, using tobacco, and drinking. If removing the source of the irritation doesn’t work applying medication to the patch may be recommended or even surgery to remove the patch.

Leukoplakia Prevention

Recommended ways to prevent leukoplakia and its complications include:

Predisposed persons should avoid some things that can lead to leukoplakia. They include:

  • Tobacco and its related products.
  • Smoking or inhaling products including resin, cannabis, and cloves.
  • Alcohol consumption.
  • Abrasive dental hygiene products, such as rinses and whiteners.
  • Candies and chewing gums that can cause mouth irritation or have rough edges that can hurt the mouth.

Proper management of the risk factors can significantly keep the disease at bay. Here are some essential tips.

  • Schedule for routine dental cleaning and examinations. Any mouth wounds should be kept clean at all times.
  • Making sure cavities are filled correctly and are not rough or uneven. Also, make sure dental devices such as braces or dentures fit well without exposed or sharp edges.
  • Ensure hot food and drinks cool off first before drinking or eating.
  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet to avoid nutrient deficiencies or imbalances.
  • Practicing safe sex, especially oral sex, is paramount. Partners should either use a dental dam or a condom for protection against the disease.