Oral Lichen Planus Overview Causes and Treatments

Oral lichen planus is a condition that affects roughly 2% of the population in America. As the name suggests, oral lichen planus is a disease that affects the mouth. It can have many, negative side effects which can negatively impact your personal life.

This article will go over oral lichen planus and explain its symptoms, severity, and possible treatments.

What is Oral Lichen Planus?

Oral lichen planus is a chronic inflammatory condition which affects the mouth. It specifically targets the mucous membranes found inside of the mouth and surrounding area. Either sex can develop oral lichen planus but it is more often found in older women than any other demographic. Most people who develop oral lichen planus are over 40 years of age.

Oral lichen planus is a chronic inflammatory condition which affects the mouth

Oral lichen planus is not contagious so there’s no need to worry about catching it from a loved one or a close associate. Even though it’s not contagious you should actively work on managing and minimizing the symptoms so you can feel more comfortable day-to-day.

Symptoms: Appearances and Locations

There are many symptoms of oral lichen planus. If you experience a variety of these symptoms, especially those more unique to oral lichen planus, contact a medical doctor so they can help you better manage your symptoms.

The symptoms of oral lichen planus include:

  • Redness - For many patients, they experience redness caused by swelling inside of the mouth. This swelling can cause tenderness and discomfort in and around the mouth.
  • Dryness - Many develop dry mouth when they get oral lichen planus. This can be accompanied by a metallic taste as well.
  • White marks - Usually a spider-web or lace-like pattern will appear in the mouth. These white marks are usually specific to oral lichen planus.
  • Ulcerations - Bumps, lesions, ulcers, and sores can all appear in and around the mouth of a patient with oral lichen planus. Sometimes these injuries are the primary source of their discomfort.
  • Burning - People with oral lichen planus commonly experience a burning sensation inside of their mouth. This sensation can come from the sores or the mouth generally.
  • Bleeding - Bleeding when brushing your teeth is another common symptom of oral lichen planus.
  • Inflammation - Swelling can be a primary symptom for many people. The swelling and inflammation can cause further discomfort and pain for the patient.

Most of these symptoms make themselves manifest on the cheeks on the inside of the mouth. This is where oral lichen planus most commonly appears. That being said, these symptoms can appear anywhere on the tongue, gums, palate or inner tissue of the lips.

Symptoms can appear anywhere on the tongue, gums, palate or inner tissue of the lips

It’s important to take note of these symptoms if you experience them so you can let your doctor know as quickly as possible.

How Serious Is Oral Lichen Planus?

Oral lichen planus is a serious disease and should be treated as such.

Many people Hepatitis C eventually develop oral lichen planus. Because of that, not only is it important to treat oral lichen planus for its own sake, but it’s important to treat it as a warning sign of other possible diseases.

Another example of this is oral cancer. There are a variety of opinions on this issue but some experts believe that there is a connection between oral lichen planus and cancer of the mouth. Some studies connect the two diseases in different ways. Regardless of how strong the connection may be, it’s important to keep an eye out for other complications which can appear if the condition isn’t properly taken care of.

Lastly, even if your case of oral lichen planus isn’t a warning sign of Hepatitis C or oral cancer, you should still actively manage it. Oral lichen planus has been known to affect one’s ability to eat and drink. This could cause obvious problems if allowed to worsen over time.

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Treatments for Oral Lichen Planus

To properly treat oral lichen planus, you need an official diagnosis from a medical doctor. They will perform a biopsy to evaluate and identify whether or not you have oral lichen planus. After you get your diagnosis, ask your doctor about their opinion on oral cancer screenings. As previously mentioned, there have been some connections between oral lichen planus and cancer of the mouth found in studies. Your doctor will be the best judge of whether or not oral cancer screenings will be a good idea for you or not.

Oral lichen planus cannot be cured but it can be treated and managed. There are generally two treatment options. The first includes corticosteroids that a doctor will prescribe in the form of a gel, ointment, or mouthwash. The doctor will instruct you on how and when to use them. The second option is steroids. Steroids are usually saved for more extreme cases as they have a stronger effect on the body. These steroids usually come in the form of a pill.

Oral lichen planus cannot be cured but it can be treated and managed

No matter the treatment, your doctor will make other general lifestyle recommendations to prevent future bouts with oral lichen planus.

These lifestyle changes include:

  • Avoiding spicy foods
  • Refraining from eating citrus-based foods or drinks.
  • Using a soft toothbrush and mild toothpaste
  • Refraining from smoking
  • Maintaining a healthy diet
  • Eating sufficient fruits and vegetables
  • Avoiding alcohol
  • Flossing regularly
  • Attending regular dental visits and check-ups


Oral lichen planus may be pain and we may not yet have a cure, but we can still treat it and live happy, healthy lives. Hopefully, if you’re experiencing the symptoms of oral lichen planus, you now feel more prepared to handle it. Just make sure to let your doctor know so they can help recommend products that will help treat your oral lichen planus.