Oral Leukoplakia: Care Instructions

Skip Navigation


Oral leukoplakia is a white patch on the inside of the mouth or on the tongue. Sometimes it turns into cancer.

Leukoplakia is most common in people over 60. You are more likely to get it if you drink too much alcohol or if you smoke, dip, or chew tobacco. Your risk is also higher if your mouth gets irritated or injured, such as from a rough tooth or ill-fitting dentures. People who don't have enough nutrients in their diet, such as vitamin A or B, are also at risk.

Your doctor may remove a small piece of the white patch to check for cancer. This is called a mouth biopsy.

You may get medicine to help get rid of the white patches. If the patches don't go away, your doctor may do surgery to remove them.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Do not smoke, chew, or dip tobacco. Using tobacco can cause leukoplakia. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines. These can increase your chances of quitting for good.
  • Limit alcohol to 2 drinks a day for men and 1 drink a day for women. Too much alcohol can cause health problems.

When should you call for help?

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • The white patches in your mouth bleed.
  • The white patches in your mouth do not go away.
  • You get new white patches in your mouth.
  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to http://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

Enter N265 in the search box to learn more about "Oral Leukoplakia: Care Instructions".

The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.