Oral lichen planus is an inflammatory condition that affects the mucous membranes inside your mouth. As a chronic disease, relapses or flare-ups are common, and may be triggered by the following:
- High blood pressure medications
- Antimalarial medications
- Antidiabetic medications
- Spicy foods
- Sugary foods
- Fast foods
- Oral care
- Using mouthwash containing alcohol
- Using toothpaste with a foaming agent such as sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS)
- Not cleaning the mouth properly or regularly
- Emotional factors
- Mouth problems
- Tobacco use
- Chewing or smoking tobacco
What are the signs and symptoms of oral lichen planus?
Oral lichen planus can appear as:
- Red, swollen patches
- White, web-like patches
- Open sores
- Blistering or peeling patches
Characteristic features of oral lichen planus can appear anywhere in the mouth, including:
- Inside the cheeks
- Inner side of the lips
Although white patches are usually painless, red patches are painful and may result in the following.
- Burning sensation in the mouth
- Gingivitis (gum inflammation)
- Difficulty chewing and swallowing
How is oral lichen planus diagnosed?
Doctors diagnose oral lichen planus by examining the patches in your mouth, taking your medical history (including dental history), and ordering tests that may include:
- Biopsy: Small tissue samples are collected from one or more patches of the mouth and sent to the laboratory for analysis.
- Culture: A sample of cells collected from lesions are analyzed for the presence of microbes—fungus, bacterium, or virus.
- Blood tests: Tests may be ordered to rule out medical conditions such as lupus or hepatitis C infection.
How is oral lichen planus treated?
Mild oral lichen planus usually goes away on its own by just avoiding triggering factors. Your doctor may monitor the condition and start treatment only if the symptoms get worse.
Treatment may include corticosteroids, which comes in many forms:
- Topical ointment
- Oral pills
- Injections directly into the patches
If your doctor suspects your immune system to be the reason for your oral lichen planus, they may prescribe medications targeting immunity, which include:
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Chen HX, Blasiak R, Kim E, et al. Triggers of oral lichen planus flares and the potential role of trigger avoidance in disease management. Oral Surg Oral Med Oral Pathol Oral Radiol. 2017 Sep;124(3):248-252.
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