Thursday July 2, 1998
Dear Dr. Mady: I have been a pack a day smoker for many years and I recently noticed a white patch in my mouth. Should I be concerned? - Phil in Remington Park.
A very important thing is how long this patch has been there. Any mouth sore that persists for longer than seven to 10 days should be examined by your dentist.
There is a possibility that this white patch is a type of leukoplakia (white lesion). Leukoplakias usually appear as whitish-coloured patches that form on the tongue, cheeks or gums (gingiva) and are created by excess cell growth.
They are more common among tobacco users, especially individuals who chew tobacco, but can also form as a result of constant irritation in the same area such as ill-fitting dentures or cheek chewing.
The danger of leukoplakia is that it may progress to cancer if not treated properly.
If you have any concern at all you should consult your dentist immediately, and if anything appears to be threatening you may be referred to an oral surgeon or oral pathologist for an evaluation or biopsy.
A biopsy involves the removal of part of (incisional biopsy) or all of (excisional) the lesion so that various types of clinical and microscopic testing can be preformed.
This will give you and your dentist an exact diagnosis so that a course of action can be determined. It may turn out to be nothing at all, but not doing anything about it is certainly not the route to take. Good luck!
This column is reprinted with the permission of the author and The Windsor Star. "Ask the Dentist" is written by Windsor dentist (and ECDS member), Dr. David Mady Jr.. The column appears the first Thursday of each month in the Windsor Star. Readers with questions can write to "Ask The Dentist", c/o The Windsor Star, 167 Ferry St., Windsor Ontario, N9A 4M5