Diseases of the oral mucosa

The sensitive oral mucosa covers the entire oral cavity and the tongue. The areas that are heavily stressed during chewing are also covered by a keratinised mucous membrane. A healthy oral mucosa always looks fresh, clear and pink. If the tissue proliferates, shows opacities, coatings, defects or staining, these can be indications of a pathological change. These can be benign, such as inflammations caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi or mechanical or chemical effects (e.g. dentures). However, they can also become chronic or malignant. Diseases of the oral mucosa can be extremely stressful and often massively restrict the quality of life. Especially if these are chronic or there is a risk of malignant change (lichen, leukoplakia), it is important to plan the therapy for the long term and to keep having regular check-ups.

Leukoplakia

This disease appears as a white, non-wipeable mucosal change that cannot be assigned to any defined disease. Leukoplakia arises from excessive keratinisation of the mucous membrane. If you have leukoplakia, regular check-ups are absolutely essential, as there is a risk of degeneration (precancerous changes) and it can develop into oral cavity carcinoma. There are 3 different types of leukoplakia: homogeneous (uniform) leukoplakia, verrucous (warty) leukoplakia and erythroleukoplakia, the risk of degeneration of which increases in the order mentioned.

Erythoplakia

Erythroplakia is similar to leukoplakia. It is characterised by a little hardened, velvety reddened damage to the mucous membrane. The edge of the tongue, the soft palate and the floor of the mouth are often affected. Erythroplakia is also a precancerous condition and degenerates more frequently than leukoplakia.

Nodular lichen

Lichen ruber mucosae (nodular lichen of the oral mucosa) is an inflammatory autoimmune disease that is not contagious. Typical features include the so-called Wickham’s stripes, i.e. whitish, stripe-like changes in the mucous membrane. In the case of lichen, ulcer-like changes can also occur, which can degenerate malignantly and are therefore also considered precancerous.

Changes can also indicate a serious disease, however. Here, a diagnosis is established by taking a sample with subsequent cytological and pathological examination. If it turns out that there is a malignant disease such as carcinoma of the oral cavity, further treatment steps will be taken quickly. Early diagnosis and therapy are important, also with regard to the quality of life later on, as malignant changes grow quickly and often tend to metastasise (form secondary tumours).

Example images of diseases of the oral mucosa

The images show leukoplakia of the oral mucosa, leukoplakia of the tongue (geographic tongue), gingival recession, periodontitis, gingival lesion, erosive lichen planus, erythroleukoplakia, oral mucosal change and aphthae of the oral mucosa.

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