Oral Leukoplakia is a condition that occurs when there’s a chronic irritation of the oral mucous membranes. It’s a benign or non-cancerous condition but some forms of oral Leukoplakia may show signs of cancer. Although more commonly seen in senior adults, oral Leukoplakia can occur among people belonging to any age group.
In today’s blog post, we’ll discuss oral Leukoplakia and how it can affect your dental health. We’ll also explore its causes, symptoms, and treatment procedures.
The Causes of Leukoplakia
The causes of oral Leukoplakia are mainly linked to chronic smoking and chewing tobacco. The condition is also linked to injuries from ill-fitted dentures, uneven or sharp rough teeth, cheek-biting, irritation from dental crowns and fillings, inflammatory body conditions, and oral cancer. A recent study has also linked Leukoplakia to human papilloma virus (HPV).
There’s, however, an unusual form of oral Leukoplakia which is known as hairy Leukoplakia. Caused by Epstein-Barr virus, this form of Leukoplakia of the mouth is primarily seen in patients suffering from HIV or other AIDS-related health issues. Epstein-Barr virus is dormant which means it permanently stays in the body and causes hairy Leukoplakia to develop and re-develop any time.
The Symptoms of Leukoplakia
It develops as a painless grey or white patch on the tongue, on the floor of the mouth (the horseshoe shaped area between the mandibles and under the tongue), or on the inside of the cheek. The patch can become thick and a little raised within a few months. If left untreated for a long time, it can gradually harden and take up a rough texture which is sensitive to heat, spicy foods, and touch. Cancerous Leukoplakia patches appear as red spots. Hairy Leukoplakia appears as fuzzy patches on the side of the tongue.
Diagnosis of Leukoplakia
A dentist will examine your oral condition to determine if it’s a case of Leukoplakia. He/she may also perform some tests other than physical examination to correctly diagnose the real cause of the patches. If the dentist finds something suspicious, he/she may recommend a biopsy where a sample of your affected tissue will be sent to the pathology to verify signs of cancer. Once the diagnosis is confirmed, your dentist can advice proper treatment for your specific case.
How is Oral Leukoplakia Treated?
Mild forms of Leukoplakia don’t require treatment and can get better on their own. Quitting tobacco may help improve the condition naturally. But if the condition is triggered by any dental problem such as faulty dentures, crowns and dental fillings, rough teeth or chronic cheek biting, then your dentist can recommend treatment procedures accordingly.
For hairy Leukoplakia, a dentist may prescribe topical ointments and antiviral medications to stop further growth or reduce its size. However, if the biopsy report comes out to be positive, then the patch needs to be surgically removed. Your dentist may also suggest some lifestyle changes to prevent recurrence. You’ll also be asked to consider follow-up appointments seriously.
If you find any signs or symptoms of oral Leukoplakia, visit your dentist immediately. Note that once you develop this condition of the mouth cavity, there are high chances of developing it again over time. Therefore, don’t hesitate to go for a dental check-up.