Appearing as white plaque-like sores on the tongue, gums and lining of the mouth, leukoplakia is classified as a long-lasting mouth lesion by Medical News Today. As stated, this implies that not all white sores are leukoplakia, and this is true, as it is more of an umbrella term describing various white mouth sores. Yet, real cases of the condition should be assessed through testing or biopsy. This is because it is believed that leukoplakia could raise one’s risk of developing oral cancer tumors, and they often form within the thick patches of persistent lesions.
With a greater understanding of leukoplakia, one might wonder how it develops. In the majority of cases, smoking and other mouth irritants (tobacco) cause the condition. The World Health Organization supports this claim by explaining that 529,000 individuals worldwide are diagnosed with oral cancer each year, and most of these are long-time smokers over the age of 40. Specifically, smoking produces long-term damage to tissues in the oral cavity and throat, causing them to thicken.
Perhaps you have developed symptoms relating to leukoplakia, and you’re wondering when to visit your doctor or dentist. Consider the following:
- White patches with spotty red regions that are raised
- White lumps with red patches
- Patches with an irregular texture
- Difficulty eating or swallowing
- Difficulty moving the jaw
- Sores that last longer than 2 weeks
- Changes in the tissues surrounding the sores
- Ear pain when swallowing
To be clear, any of the above-mentioned symptoms should be taken seriously as a possible indication of leukoplakia. Furthermore, the following factors are also believed to play a role:
- HPV – Human Papillomavirus
- HIV, Chemotherapy and/or organ surgery
- Excessive Tobacco Usage
- Excessive Alcohol Use
- Excessive usage of abrasive oral health products (teeth whitening)
- Excessive usage of steroid inhalers
- Frequent burning of the mouth from hot beverages or foods
- Ill-fitting dentures or other mouth devices
- Poor oral hygiene
Given all of the associated factors, it’s easy to see that there’s no clearly defined cause for leukoplakia. Yet, one thing is certain, it is better to be safe than sorry. That’s why it’s important to commit to regular dental visits to allow for early detection and treatment.
Dr. Leia Porcaro is a top Marietta dentist providing comprehensive dental services to communities throughout East Cobb and the greater Atlanta area. Dr. Porcaro emphasizes preventative dentistry at her practice, Grateful Dental, and places a high value on patient-centered care. If you are experiencing signs and symptoms associated with leukoplakia, call Grateful Dental today for the trusted care that you deserve.