Frictional hyperkeratosis is a condition characterized by the buildup of excessive keratin in the oral tissues in response to friction and irritation. Here are four things you need to know about it.
What are the signs of frictional hyperkeratosis?
If you have frictional hyperkeratosis, you'll notice white patches on your oral soft tissues. These patches form in areas of friction. You may see horizontal white patches on the insides of your cheeks or on your lips where you have been chewing the tissue. White patches may also develop in areas where dentures, braces, or other dental appliances rub against your tissues. If you are missing teeth, you may notice white patches on your gums due to the forces of chewing.
If you notice white patches inside your mouth, make sure to see your dentist.
Is it serious?
Frictional hyperkeratosis is a benign condition and is similar to a callus on your skin, but it can look similar to other, more serious, types of oral lesions, including oral cancer. Due to this similarity, your dentist may need to perform tests to make sure the lesions are not serious. These tests may include tissue autofluorescence. For this test, your dentist will examine your lesions through a hand-held scope. Normal oral tissue will look pale green, while cancerous tissue will look darker.
Your dentist may also want to take a biopsy of the lesions. A small section of the tissue will be removed and then examined under a microscope for signs of cancer.
How is it treated?
Your dentist will identify the cause of your frictional hyperkeratosis lesions and then help you remove it. For example, if ill-fitting dentures are rubbing against your tissues, your denturist can adjust them or replace them with new dentures that fit better. If braces are responsible, your dentist may recommend applying orthodontic wax to them to cushion your tissues.
If bad habits like cheek or lip chewing are responsible, you will be told to try to break those habits. Once the cause of the friction is removed, the lesions will heal by themselves.
How common is frictional hyperkeratosis?
There is no data regarding the prevalence of frictional hyperkeratosis within Canada, and only a few large studies have examined the prevalence of frictional hyperkeratosis in the United States. One study of 17,235 American adults found that 2.67% of study participants had the condition. A study of 10,030 children found that only 0.26% had frictional keratosis.
If you notice lesions inside your mouth, see your dentist right away for an evaluation.