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.

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 (white plaque) is medical 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. Leukoplakia itself is noncancerous but up to 20% of such patches will eventually develop cancer if left untreated.

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.

Mouth symptoms that may occur along with mouth white patches

Mouth white patches may accompany other symptoms affecting the mouth including:


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.

Damage to the mouth can be the result of chewing on the cheeks, excessive teeth brushing, trauma, or dentures that are not fitted properly. Each of these can c... Read more about mouth white patchescauses

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Sep 6, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

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