Leukoplakia is a greyish or whitish patch that develops on the tongue, and the inside of the cheeks, or on the floor of your mouth. This condition mainly occurs due to over smoking or by chemical irritants. These patches also develop in the female genital area, but the cause is unknown.

A mild form of leukoplakia is harmless and goes away on its own without any treatment. But in severe cases, it may be linked to oral cancer, which requires prompt treatment.


The exact cause of leukoplakia is unknown. But, the primary reason can be tobacco use. Consuming tobacco in any form can affect the tongue and mouth. Three out of every four smokers would develop leukoplakia at some point during their lifetime.

There may be other causes for leukoplakia which include:

  • Cheek biting
  • Uneven, rough teeth
  • Drinking more amounts of alcohol
  • Dentures which are fitted improperly

Hairy leukoplakia

The main cause for hairy leukoplakia is Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). If once it enters your body it remains there for a life time. EBV is dormant, but the hairy leukoplakia patches can be developed at any time. The outbreaks mainly occur in people with compromised immune system, such as HIV patients or other patients with other immune system problems.

Leukoplakia patches usually develop on the tongue and insides of the cheeks, sides of the tongue may develop hairy leukoplakia.

The patches are:

  • Looks fuzzy
  • Uneven in shape
  • Difficult to scrap off
  • White or grayish in appearance
  • Slightly elevated with hard surface
  • Painful when comes in contact with spicy foods

Your doctor would perform an oral examination. You may mistake leukoplakia with oral thrush which is a yeast infection. Patches in oral thrush are softer than leukoplakia patches, and they bleed, which does not occur in leukoplakia.

Your doctor performs a physical examination, to confirm the patches as leukoplakia. Your doctor would order for further tests to confirm the cause of appropriate leukoplakia treatment may help prevent future patches from developing or worsening the present patches.

Your doctor would order for a biopsy if the patch looks suspicious. For this, a small tissue is removed and sent to a pathologist for diagnosis. This test helps to rule out the possibility of oral cancer.

The goals of the treatment are to get rid of the leukoplakia patches, however, mild forms of leukoplakia cure on their own, but severe cases require the removal of the cause which makes the patch disappear automatically.

Treating the dental causes such as irregular, rough teeth, rough denture surfaces, crowns or fillings as soon as possible, as these may be a cause for leukoplakia patches

  • Your doctor will advise you to quit smoking and avoid tobacco-related products.
  • Your doctor will ask you to quit alcohol.

If treating the source of the infection does not cure the patch, then your doctor would prescribe topical medications or surgically remove it.

In the case of oral hairy leukoplakia, your doctor would prescribe antiviral medications that cure the patches. Your doctor would also prescribe topical gels to treat the patch.

Simple changes in the lifestyle may show great impacts in the cure of leukoplakia.

  • You must reduce alcohol consumption
  • You must stop smoking or chewing tobacco
  • You must eat anti-oxidant rich diet, such as spinach, carrots. Anti-oxidants help in the fighting with the irritants that cause patches.