Linea alba on the cheek is an oral condition that does not cause any discomfort or pain. And while lesions in the mouth can be cause for concern, if your dentist says you have white line on your cheek, you can feel confident that this benign condition is easily treated.
What Is Linea Alba?
The Scholars Journal of Dental Sciences (SJDS) describes linea alba as a hardening of the tissue lining of the cheek (also known as the buccal mucosa) due to excess deposits of keratin, a protein found in hair and skin. It appears as a raised, white line running horizontally along the plane where the top and bottom teeth meet. This line is caused by friction and is comparable to a callus on the inside of your cheek. Adults are usually more prone to linea alba than children, and the condition is more common in women, according to SJDS.
What Causes This Condition?
Cheek biting is the most common source of friction that causes linea alba on the cheek. You have probably bitten your cheek occasionally while eating. While it may hurt initially, a cheek bite most often heals without any remaining signs of an injury. If your cheek is continually irritated, however, keratin is deposited, which results in a hard, white line. Because the hardened tissue is raised, it may get caught between the teeth while you're talking or eating. Some people develop a habit of chewing on the line, which only makes it thicker and more prominent.
Other causes of linea alba include friction from orthodontic appliances or dentures, a misaligned bite and overzealous oral hygiene. Clenching and grinding your teeth can also cause enough abrasion to the buccal mucosa.
How Is It Diagnosed and Treated?
Whenever your dentist finds a lesion in your mouth, they will want to determine if it is caused by an irritant like cheek biting or if it has more serious implications. The World Health Organization explains that linea alba is frequently mistaken for leukoplakia, which can be a precursor to oral cancer. To confirm that friction is the cause, your dentist will wipe the lesion with sterile gauze pads. A patch that is not easily wiped away is usually a good indication that it is a keratinized area caused by something rubbing or abrading the cheek, according to Medscape.
After your dentist pinpoints the cause of the friction, the next logical step is to eliminate the cause. If you are grinding and clenching your teeth at night, for example, your dentist may recommend wearing a mouth guard to protect your cheeks and teeth. If the friction is due to braces or dentures, it may be necessary to have adjustments made to your appliance. However, if you are routinely biting and chewing on your cheek, you will need to work on breaking the habit. Sometimes just being aware that you are doing it can help you stop. If you bite your cheeks when you're stressed, Medscape recommends seeking counseling to help you manage your anxiety and cheek biting habit. Regardless of what treatment your dentist decides is best, they will probably want to check for improvement at a follow-up appointment.
Keep in mind that even though linea alba on the cheek is painless and nonthreatening, some other oral lesions are serious. See your dentist as soon as possible if you notice a white patch or raised line on the inside of your mouth.