How is leukoplakia diagnosed?

Since the white patches of leukoplakia do not cause symptoms, they are often first noticed by healthcare providers during a routine examination.

Before a diagnosis of leukoplakia is made, other possible causes of the white patches are investigated. These could include friction inside the mouth (caused by something such as dentures), repeated biting of the cheek, fungal infection or lichen planus,

If no cause is found and the white patches are not gone after two to four weeks, a biopsy (tissue sample) is taken and sent to the laboratory for examination.

If the biopsy still does not show a clear diagnosis, the white patch may be confirmed as leukoplakia, meaning that it has the potential to become cancerous. (If cancer cells are actually found, this means a diagnosis of cancer, not of leukoplakia.)

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 08/05/2020.


  • Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center. Leukoplakia. Accessed 8/4/2020.
  • World Health Organization International Agency for Research on Cancer. A digital manual for the early diagnosis of oral neoplasia. Leukoplakia. Accessed 8/4/2020.
  • Canadian Cancer Society. Precancerous conditions of the mouth. Accessed 8/4/2020.
  • American Osteopathic College of Dermatology. Leukoplakia. Accessed 8/4/2020.

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