Oral Lichen Planus: What are the Causes, Symptoms and Treatments?

Oral lichen planus is a chronic, inflammatory, autoimmune disease that affects the mouth. The condition, which can last several years, is a form of lichen planus, a disorder that can affect the skin, genitals, ears, nails and scalp.

While it can affect anyone, the condition is most common in adults over the age of 30.

oral lichen planus

What are the Causes Of Oral Lichen Planus?

The causes of oral lichen planus are unknown. This makes the condition difficult to prevent.

As an autoimmune disease, lichen planus affects the body’s inflammatory cells that should fight off harmful bacteria and viruses. It attacks the skin and mucous membranes leaving swollen patches of tissue.

 There are cases in which people have developed lichen planus after using certain forms of medication. Typically, these are to combat high blood pressure, rheumatic problems or heart disease. People with amalgam allergies can also develop the disorder.

The condition is not contagious and can’t be passed from one person to another.

What are the Symptoms Of Oral Lichen Planus?

There are a number of oral lichen planus symptoms that are commonly located on the soft tissues of the mouth. Affected areas may include the inside of the cheeks or inner lips, as well as the gums or tongue.

The most common symptoms of oral lichen planus include white patches of raised tissue, tender patches of swollen red tissue or open sores. The condition can also cause itching and a burning sensation in the mouth. This can be very painful.

In the mouth, the disorder can manifest itself in one of two ways; reticular lichen planus and erosive lichen planus.

Reticular lichen planus comes from the lace-like pattern of fine white lines that appear on the inside of the cheeks, gums, and tongue.

Erosive lichen planus causes sores or erosion on the lining of the mouth. Like the reticular form, these sores are found on the cheeks, tongue and gums. Erosive lichen planus usually requires treatment for which your doctor may need to prescribe a powerful topical anti-inflammatory drug to combat the pain.

In extreme cases, oral lichen planus may cause other complications. These include:

  • Depression
  • Scarring of soft tissue
  • Yeast or fungal infections
  • Oral cancer
  • Weight loss

Cases usually recover within a few years. However, there are known cases in which long-lasting effects have been felt, such as:

  • Dry mouth/throat
  • Metallic taste
  • Bleeding gums
  • Throat inflammation

Symptoms of oral lichen planus can be easily managed, but the condition requires regular monitoring due to the risk of mouth cancer developing. Be aware of the symptoms and visit your dentist or specialist if you have any concerns.

What is the Treatment for Oral Lichen Planus?

Often very stubborn, oral lichen planus can be hard to control through the use of medicine. However, if left untreated, it usually heals within nine to 18 months.

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One of the most effective treatments for oral lichen planus is to maintain good oral hygiene. This includes brushing your teeth properly twice a day for at least two minutes. Introduce interdental cleaning, such as flossing or the use of interdental brushes, to clean between your teeth.

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For further advice on maintaining oral hygiene, consult our seven steps to improving your oral health.

Additional ways to treat the condition include reducing the amount of overly spicy and sour food you consume. This will help to decrease any inflammation in the mouth. It’s also advisable to quit smoking and reduce your alcohol consumption to reduce the symptoms more easily.

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Remember; healthy mouth, healthy body.

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