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Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Oral White Patches

Dr. Vincent Wan


Do you have oral white patches on your gums, tongue or lining of your mouth?  Are the white patches thick and plaque-like?  Do you smoke?  If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, you should see a dentist or doctor to have your mouth assessed.

Some oral white patches in the mouth are completely harmless and resolve by themselves without any treatment.  However, some white patches may be what is termed leukoplakia.  Leukoplakia can be associated with oral cancer so any white patches in the mouth that don’t go away should be checked by a dentist or doctor to make sure.

Leukoplakia is defined as an oral white lesion that is not related to any other non-serious condition by the World Health Organization (WHO).  Besides their typical raised white appearance, patches of leukoplakia may also be grey or transparent.  Usually there is a clear margin around the patch and the patch may also appear to have cracking.  The patches can be uncomfortable but are also commonly painless.  They typically occur on the gums, sides of the cheeks, floor of the mouth and on the tongue.  There may be an association with activities with irritate the tissues of the mouth, such as smoking and excessive alcohol consumption.

If leukoplakia is suspected at an examination with your dentist or doctor, you may be referred to a specialist oral pathologist for further assessment.  Besides a thorough clinical examination and medical history assessment, a biopsy of the oral white patches may be performed.

Sometimes cessation of irritating behaviours such as smoking and good oral hygiene may be all that is needed for the oral white patches to disappear.  Other times, they may need to be surgically removed.  Leukoplakia can reoccur so frequent follow-up reviews are required even after resolution of the oral white patches.

Please come and see one of our friendly dentists at Central Brisbane Dental for assessment if you have an oral white patch that does not go away by itself within 2 weeks.