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Dr. Andrew Rynne
Dr. Andrew Rynne

Family Physician

Exp 50 years

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Article Home Dentistry White patches on tongue or Leukoplakia

White patches on tongue or Leukoplakia

Leukoplakia is a condition in which thickened, white patches form on your gums, on the inside of your cheeks, the bottom of your mouth and sometimes on your tongue. These patches can't easily be scraped off.


The cause of leukoplakia is unknown, but tobacco, either smoked or chewed, is considered to be the main culprit

They are not dangerous, but sometime most leukoplakia patches are benign shows early signs of cancer.

Symptoms of leukoplakia

  • White or grayish patches that cannot be wiped away.
  • Irregular of flat texture.
  • Thickened or hardened areas.
  • Sometimes there may be raised red lesions called erythroplakia which show precancerous changes.
  • A type of leukoplakia called hairy leukoplakia can affects the people whose immune systems are weakened by medications or disease like HIV/AIDS.

When to see a doctor

  • Sometimes mouth sores can be annoying or painful with our being harmful. Sometimes mouth problems can indicate a more serious condition.
  • White plaques or sores in mouth that don’t heal on their own within seven to 10 days.
  • Lumps or white, red or dark patches in mouth.
  • Persistent changes in the tissues of mouth.

Causes of leukoplakia

  • Long term tobacco use.
  • Long term alcohol use.
  • Mechanical irritants like rough fillings or dentures.
  • Smoking and chewing tobacco and snuff.
  • Hairy leukoplakia: It is sometimes called oral hairy leukoplakia results from Epstein-Barr virus. People with HIV/AIDS are especially likely to develop hairy leukoplakia.
  • Diagnosis:
  • Excisional biopsy: Removal of entire lesion or a portion of the lesion.
  • Oral brush biopsy: It includes removal of portion of lesion, removing cells from leukoplakic patches with small, spinning brush.

Treatment and drugs

  • Stopping or alcohol consumption.
  • Removal of the leuokoplakic patches using a scalpel, a laser, or an extremely cold probe that freezes and destroys cancer cells (cryoprobe).
  • Retinoids, derivatives of vitamin A which are used to treat severe acne.

Treating hairy leukoplakia

  • Systemic medications: These include antiviral drugs such as Valacyclovir and famciclovir, which prevent the Epstein-Barr virus from replicating. Treatment with antivirals can clear leukoplakic patches.
  • Topical medications: These include podophyllum resin solution and tretinoin.


  • Stop using tobacco products: Avoiding all tobacco products is one of the best steps to take o0verall health.
  • Avoid or limit alcohol consumption.
  • Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables which are rich in antioxidants like betacarotene, reduce the risk of leukoplakia by deactivating harmful oxygen molecules before they can damage the tissues.