Leukoplakia is a condition in which white patches form on the gums or tongue, or on the inside of the cheek. They form as a reaction to irritation of the mucous membranes of the mouth. The cause of leukoplakia is unknown, but it may be triggered by tobacco use.
Leukoplakia patches may be thin or thick, and cannot be wiped away. Raised red lesions may also appear. Most of these sores are harmless, although they may be early signs of oral cancer.
Leukoplakia can often be cleared simply by stopping smoking or not drinking alcohol. Doing so may also help prevent future sores. Unresponsive sores may be removed by a scalpel, laser or cryoprobe.