Leukoplakia can occur when your tongue or the soft tissue of your inner cheeks become irritated over a period of time. This irritation causes white patches to develop and these white patches of tissue can be painful when you consume hot food and drinks. Leukoplakia can leave you feeling uncomfortable when you eat, but some sufferers also feel self-conscious if the white patches in their mouth can be seen when they laugh or yawn. Here's an overview of the causes and treatment options for leukoplakia.
The cause of leukoplakia isn't always apparent, but can be anything that produces irritation such as badly fitting dentures that rub against the inside of your cheeks or chipped teeth and dental fillings with sharp edges. Smoking and regularly drinking alcohol can also irritate the soft tissue of your mouth. Occasionally, leukoplakia is not caused by irritation, but by the Epstein-Barr virus, which is part of the herpes family. When this is the case, the white patches in your mouth will also be hairy.
When your dentist diagnoses leukoplakia, which can be done by visual examination and tissue biopsy, you'll have to decide whether to have the white patches removed or wait and see if they clear up on their own. If you decide to wait and see, you'll have better results if the underlying cause of the irritation is treated. Your dentist can repair any broken teeth or rough fillings, and if you wear dentures that are causing irritation you'll be fitted for a new set. Your GP can give you advice and support to give up smoking or drinking alcohol.
Leukoplakia won't always clear up on it's on as your mouth is in near constant use, so it's not the ideal environment for healing to take place. If you want to go ahead and proactively treat leukoplakia your dentist will surgically remove the white patches of tissue with a laser or scalpel. The procedure is performed under local anaesthetic and causes minimal disturbance to your mouth as only a thin layer of tissue needs to be removed and the underlying tissue regenerates rapidly.
If you have the Epstein-Barr virus, you'll require antiviral drugs to dampen down the virus. It can't be cured and will remain in your body, but treatment with an antiviral can put it into a dormant state and leave you free of symptoms.
If you have white patches on your tongue or inner cheeks, see a clinic like All Smiles Dental Centre as soon as possible as other conditions such as oral cancer and oral thrush can produce similar white patches of tissue.