Treatments and drugs

By Mayo Clinic Staff

For most people, stopping tobacco or alcohol use clears the condition. When this isn't effective or if the lesions show early signs of cancer, your dentist may refer you for treatment, which involves:

  • Removal of leukoplakia patches. Patches may be removed using a scalpel, a laser or an extremely cold probe that freezes and destroys cancer cells (cryoprobe).
  • Follow-up visits. Recurrences are common.

Leukoplakia treatment is most successful when a lesion is found and treated early, when it's small. Regular checkups are important, as is routinely inspecting your mouth for areas that don't look normal.

Treating hairy leukoplakia

Usually, you don't need treatment for hairy leukoplakia. The condition often causes no symptoms and isn't likely to lead to mouth cancer.

If your doctor or dentist recommends treatment, you may take a pill that affects your whole system (systemic medication), such as the antiviral medicine acyclovir (Zovirax) or antiretroviral medicine zidovudine (Retrovir). Or you may use a medication solution that you apply directly to the lesions in your mouth (topical medication), such as podophyllum.

Once you stop treatment, the white patches of hairy leukoplakia may return. Your doctor or dentist may recommend follow-up visits every three months to monitor changes to your mouth or ongoing therapy to prevent leukoplakia patches from returning.

Jul. 26, 2013

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