By Aspen Dental
Leukoplakia is an oral condition in which whites spots appear inside the mouth and cannot be wiped away. Research has not yet determined the precise cause of leukoplakia, but doctors suspect tobacco of any kind (smoked, dipped, or chewed). Dipped or chewed tobacco can cause leukoplakia in the area of the mouth where the user holds the tobacco. Symptoms of leukoplakia include white patches on the insides of the cheeks, on the gums, underneath the tongue, and sometimes on the tongue. These white spots last longer than two weeks. They are not usually painful and because of this can sometimes go weeks without being noticed. These patches cannot be wiped away and can appear white, gray, or sometimes red. Red patches can show precancerous signs. The patches can appear in textured and irregular ridges or folds and may be thick or hardened in spots. A type of leukoplakia, called hairy leukoplakia, forms fuzzy and white patches to appear inside the mouth and is most common in those with a weakened immune system. Hairy leukoplakia doesn’t commonly lead to cancer, but it can indicate HIV/AIDS. Although leukoplakia isn’t painful, it can be a sign of more serious conditions. Contact your dentist or doctor if you experience any of the following: • White, red, or gray patches in your mouth • Consistent changes of the tissues of your mouth • Pain in your ear when swallowing • Restricted, painful jaw movement Leukoplakia can be prevented by avoiding tobacco and alcohol consumption, practicing good dental hygiene, and visiting your dentist regularly. Call us at Aspen Dental of Cache Valley if you experience symptoms of leukoplakia.