What are mouth white patches?

White patches in the mouth are a common symptom of infection, inflammation, trauma, malignancy, and other underlying conditions and diseases. Mouth white patches result from pathogens, such as bacteria, viruses and fungi, which inflame the lining of the mouth causing swelling, redness, and ulcer formation. Ulcers most commonly occur on the inside of the mouth but may also occur on the tongue and lips, or in association with more generalized conditions, such as cancer. Allergic reactions to food and other substances may cause inflammation, swelling, and development of mouth white patches.

Mouth Problems Spotlight

Trauma to the mouth, gums or teeth may result in mouth white patches. Trauma-related cuts become inflamed, swell, and have the potential develop into a mouth ulcer that is white in appearance. Ill-fitting dentures may cause mouth white patches that originate as injurious sores. Any type of trauma to the mouth, lips or tongue can result in mouth white patches as a result of inflammation and swelling around the site of injury.

Leukoplakia is the term for a precancerous condition that most often occurs on the tongue or lining of the cheek. This condition also appears as white patches inside the mouth and is caused by chronic irritation rather than infection.

Chewing tobacco or smoking, particularly pipe smoking, can cause mouth white patches. Mouth white patches may result from specific medications, including chemotherapy. Underlying conditions that are common causes of mouth white patches include inflammatory bowel diseases, alcoholism, and cancer.

Seek immediate medical care (call 911) for serious symptoms, such as choking or severe difficulty breathing, high fever (higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit); sudden swelling of the tongue or throat structures; change in level of consciousness or alertness, such as passing out or unresponsiveness; or a change in mental status or sudden behavior change, such as confusion, delirium, lethargy, hallucinations and delusions.

Seek prompt medical care if you are being treated for mouth white patches but mild symptoms recur or are persistent.


What other symptoms might occur with mouth white patches?

Mouth white patches may accompany other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Symptoms that frequently affect the mouth may also involve other body systems.... Read more about mouth white patchessymptoms


What causes mouth white patches?

White patches in the mouth result from infections caused by bacteria, viruses and fungi. Infections of the skin around the mouth, mucous membranes inside the mouth, gums, and tongue are common causes of mouth white patches.... Read more about mouth white patchescauses

Medical Reviewer: All content has been reviewed by board-certified physicians under the direction of Rich Klasco, M.D., FACEP. Last Annual Review Date: Copyright:

This Article is Filed Under: Mouth, Teeth and Oral Health