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Oral leukoplakia

Author: Dr Delwyn Dyall-Smith, Dermatologist, 2009.

What is oral leukoplakia?

Oral leukoplakia describes a white patch or plaque of the oral mucosa that cannot be characterised clinically or pathologically as any other disease.

What causes oral leukoplakia?

Oral leukoplakia may be due to several conditions, most often:

In children, differential diagnosis includes dyskeratosis congenita and hidrotic ectodermal dysplasia. 

Who gets oral leukoplakia?

There is a strong association with tobacco smoking (leukoplakia is six times more common in smokers than non-smokers) and alcohol intake (independent of drinking pattern or beverage type). It is also associated with betel quid chewing and oral submucous fibrosis

How is the diagnosis made?

The histopathology of oral leukoplakia is not always diagnostic. Epithelial changes range from atrophy (thinned) to hyperplasia (thickened) and it may show hyperkeratosis. Dysplasia (atypical changes) may be mild, moderate, severe, carcinoma in situ or invasive carcinoma. The pathology report must comment on the absence or presence of dysplasia, and the severity.

What is the treatment of oral leukoplakia?

The treatment of oral leukoplakia depends on its cause. 

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