Leukoplakia causes thick white patches develop inside the mouth. While doctors aren't sure of the exact cause, long-term tobacco use appears to be the main culprit. Hairy leukoplakia is a type that mostly affects individuals with compromised immune systems. Most of the time, these patches are benign, but occasionally, they are an early sign of oral cancer. It's important to see a doctor when changes occur to the inside of the mouth.
The unusual-looking patches inside the mouth that leukoplakia causes vary in appearance. They may be gray or white and have a hard, thick surface. Rarely, the patches have red spots, which may be a specific indication of oral cancer and call for immediate medical attention. The patches can form on the gums, inside the cheeks, on the tongue, or the bottom of the mouth below the tongue. They are generally painless and may take several weeks to form.
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