University of Oulu

Oivio, UM., Pesonen, P., Ylipalosaari, M. et al. Prevalence of oral mucosal normal variations and lesions in a middle-aged population: a Northern Finland Birth Cohort 1966 study. BMC Oral Health 20, 357 (2020).

Prevalence of oral mucosal normal variations and lesions in a middle-aged population : a Northern Finland Birth Cohort 1966 study

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Author: Oivio, Ulla‑Maija1; Pesonen, Paula2; Ylipalosaari, Merja3;
Organizations: 1Cancer and Translational Medicine Research Unit, Faculty of Medicine, University of Oulu, P.O. Box 5281, 90014, Oulu, Finland
2Infrastructure for Population Studies, Faculty of Medicine, University of Oulu, P.O. Box 5000, 90014, Oulu, Finland
3Research Unit of Oral Health Sciences, University of Oulu, P.O. Box 5281, 90014, Oulu, Finland
4Institute of Dentistry, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Eastern Finland, P.O. Box 1627, 70211, Kuopio, Finland
5Department of Oral Diagnostics, Educational Dental Clinic, Kuopio University Hospital, Yliopistonranta 1 C, 70210, Kuopio, Finland
6Medical Research Center Oulu, Oulu University Hospital and University of Oulu, P.O. Box 5281, 90014, Oulu, Finland
7Institute of Oral and Maxillofacial Disease, University of Helsinki, 00014, Helsinki, Finland
8HUSLAB, Department of Pathology, Helsinki University Hospital, Helsinki, Finland
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.8 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Springer Nature, 2020
Publish Date: 2020-12-22


Background: In this cross-sectional study we investigated the oral mucosal changes in a middle-aged Finnish population. We analyzed the prevalence of potentially malignant disorders and the influence of smoking, snuff and alcohol use on the mucosal changes.

Methods: Of the 12,068 members of the NFBC 1966, a total of 1961 participants (16.2%) constituted the study population. Mucosal changes were diagnosed and photographed by seven general dentists, and two specialists re-analyzed all the diagnoses based on the documentation Cross-tabulation with Chi-square tests and logistic regression analysis were used to analyze the data.

Results: Of the participants, 10.5% had some mucosal changes, of which 81.8% were diagnosed as oral mucosal lesions (OML) and 18.2% as normal variations. Of the normal variations, the most common were Fordyce granules (1.2%), fissured tongue (1.1%) and geographic tongue (0.9%). The most common OMLs were white lesions (6.5%), of which oral lichen planus (OLP) and lichenoid reactions (OLR), grouped as oral lichenoid diseases, were present in 3.5%, males more often (3.8% vs. 3.1%). OLP was found in 1.5% of all participants, females more often (1.8% vs. 1.2%), while OLR was more common in males (2.7% vs. 1.3%). Leukoplakia was identified in 0.5% of the population; twice more often in males (0.6% vs. 0.3%). Erythroplakia was not found. Current smokers had higher risk for oral mucosal changes than former or non-smokers (OR 3.0, 95% CI 2.11–4.28), and snuff, used occasionally or regularly, also raised the risk (OR 2.6, 95% CI 1.48–4.70).

Conclusions: In the middle-aged northern Finland population, 4% of OMLs were potentially malignant disorders, including OLR (2%), OLP (1.5%) and leukoplakia (0.5%). In particular, smoking and snuff use increased the risk for having any oral mucosa changes.

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Series: BMC oral health
ISSN: 1472-6831
ISSN-E: 1472-6831
ISSN-L: 1472-6831
Volume: 20
Issue: 1
Article number: 357
DOI: 10.1186/s12903-020-01351-9
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 313 Dentistry
Funding: NFBC1966 receives financial assistance from University of Oulu Grant no. 24000692, Oulu University Hospital Grant no. 24301140, ERDF European Regional Development Fund Grant No. 539/2010 A31592. This study did not have any financial support.
Copyright information: © The Author(s) 2020. Open Access. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated in a credit line to the data.