What is Leukoplakia: Causes and Symptoms?

Leukoplakia is a mouth condition in which the mouth becomes lined with thickened white patches that cannot be scraped off. According to the dental clinic, it is caused by smoking or the use of other types of tobacco. The condition is also caused by some other irritants.  80 per cent of the cases with leukoplakia occur in smokers. 

Leukoplakia and Cancer

While it may not lead to cancer in many cases, there are 3 to 17.5 per cent chances of developing oral cancer. Speckled leukoplakia, a special type of leukoplakia in which there are red and white patches in the mouth, points to the possibility of having cancer. Due to this reason, people should have their mouths examined by dentists regularly.

Oral Hairy Leukoplakia

Hairy leukoplakia is different from regular leukoplakia. It is characterized by fuzzy white patches that bear a resemblance to ridges on the sides of the tongue. Sometimes, it is mistaken for a thrush mouth.  Hairy leukoplakia is usually seen in people with low immunity like people with Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) or HIV/AIDS. Hairy leukoplakia is not associated with cancer risk. However, it may be one of the primary signs of HIV.


In leukoplakia, the white patches can be seen on the gums, under the tongue, on the internal surface of the cheeks, or the tongue. Leukoplakia has other symptoms like:

  • greyish colored patches 
  • patches with irregular or flat  texture in the mouth
  • Hardness or thickness in some areas of the mouth.
  • Presence of raised red lesions with the white patches


  • Prolonged use of tobacco in either form, smoking or chewing is the most common cause of leukoplakia. 
  • Some  other causes are as follows:
  • broken  or ill-fitting dentures
  • an injury on the inside surface  of the cheek 
  • broken or uneven teeth
  • long-term use of  alcohol 
  • conditions which cause inflammation in the body 
  • prolonged use of chewing tobacco 

When to See a Doctor

Although leukoplakia is painless, it’s important to know when to consult a doctor as it can turn into a serious condition 

  • If the white patches in the mouth fail to clear up within two weeks
  • Presence of red or dark patches in the mouth
  • any type of  change is noticed  in the mouth
  • you experience   pain in the ears when swallowing
  • You are unable to open the mouth properly and it keeps getting worse with time

About The Author

Dr. Priya Verma

No Comments

Leave a Reply