Linea alba is a common, benign hardening of the mucosa inside of the mouth due to excess keratin. Occurring more frequently in adults than in children, it appears as a white line along the insides of the cheeks, where the top and bottom teeth rest on each other.
Often, a person with linea alba experiences no symptoms except for the appearance of a raised white line along the inside of the cheeks. Because it is essentially a callus of the oral mucosa, linea alba is usually painless.
When the oral mucosa is repeatedly aggravated, it develops a layer of keratin, which is what appears as a white line. Chewing on the insides of the cheeks can cause linea alba, but has other possible culprits. Dentures, orthodontic appliances, uneven teeth and aggressive oral hygiene each can lead to the condition.
Adults experience linea alba more frequently than children. Moreover, cheek biting is far more prevalent in women than in men. So women are more likely to develop the condition from biting behaviors. Thirteen percent of young men in a limited study had the condition, and so it's likely that the percentage of women who have linea alba is much higher than that percentage.
Diagnosis and Treatment
After diagnosing linea alba, a dentist or oral pathologist will likely advise the patient to remove the irritant or irritants that cause the condition. Examples include the cessation of habits, such as cheek biting and aggressive oral hygiene, or adjustment of orthodontic elements, including uneven teeth, dentures and other appliances. The patient might even seek counseling to help manage habits that cause or exacerbate linea alba. The dentist or oral pathologist probably will schedule a follow-up appointment to determine whether or not the condition improved.