Oral Lichen Planus

What is Oral Lichen Planus?

Oral Lichen Planus is a chronic condition that causes inflammation in the mucus membranes along the inside of the mouth. It can appear as red swollen tissues, open lesions, or white lacy patches. These sores can cause significant discomfort within the mouth, but the condition cannot be passed on to another person. Many patients are unaware that they even have it.

Though it is not yet understood why, oral lichen planus occurs when the white blood cells in a person’s immune system attack the cells of the oral membranes. Some believe – though it has not been proven – that this may an indication of an underlying immune disorder. In some cases, it is possible that oral lichen planus could be the result of using certain medications. Other times, it could be related to a mouth injury, allergic reactions to dental materials, or an infection.

What are the Symptoms of Oral Lichen Planus?

The sores that develop within the mouth during oral lichen planus most commonly appear along the insides of the cheeks, although they can also be found on the tongue, gums, palate, and inner lip. While the white patches may not cause any discomfort, red patches or sores can cause:

  • Burning sensations
  • Pain
  • Bleeding when brushing teeth
  • Sensitivity to acidic, spicy, or hot fods
  • Gingivitis
  • Discomfort when swallowing, chewing, or speaking
  • Thick painful patches on the tongue

As a result of these symptoms, patients may develop further complications such as nutritional deficiency, anxiety, depression, stress, weight loss, scarring, and oral cancer.

How is Oral Lichen Planus Treated?

Oral lichen planus is a constant condition, and there is no cure. Treatment instead focuses on reducing discomfort and promoting the healing of any sores. Patients with no pain or just white lacy lesions may not need medical care. Most symptoms can be treated with topical, oral, or injectable corticosteroids. To improve more severe complications, topical ointments and medications that suppress the immune system may be needed.

Last Reviewed:
October 07, 2016
Last Updated:
August 15, 2017