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Lichen Planus

Lichen planus is a condition affecting the mouth and, in some cases, other body parts. When lichen planus occurs in the mouth, it is also referred to as oral lichen planus. This long-term condition may occur alone or due to another health condition affecting other body parts. Oral lichen planus often occurs from middle age and in more women than men.

What can cause oral lichen planus?

The cause of lichen planus in patients is still unknown. However, it may signify a slight weakness in the immune system, but people with lichen planus do not usually show other issues. In some cases, lichen planus results from a reaction to medications such as diabetic treatments, certain painkillers, high blood pressure medications, penicillamine, or beta blockers.

Oral lichen planus is not due to an infection, and it isn’t inherited. Spicy foods, citrus fruits and emotional stress can often worsen the symptoms.

Diagnosis of oral lichen planus

Lichen planus in the mouth is usually diagnosed after a careful professional dental examination. The symptoms and appearance of oral lichen planus are similar to other conditions, so a biopsy is necessary to confirm the diagnosis.

A biopsy is a simple procedure conducted under local anaesthesia. It involves collecting a small tissue sample from the mouth. This area should heal within 7 – 10 days.

What is the treatment for oral lichen planus?

Treatment for oral lichen is necessary when painful symptoms occur. Some people with white patches that aren’t painful report a slight roughness in the lining of the mouth, but this may not need treatment.

When treating oral lichen is necessary, it involves putting corticosteroid cream on the area. Some areas may require other treatments like application of immunosuppressants. In rare care, patients need corticosteroids or other similar medication.

Ensure you follow your dentist’s advice which may include avoiding things that worsen the condition, like spicy food and anything that causes an allergic reaction. You may also get a referral to a doctor for further investigation.

Does oral lichen clear without treatment?

Most times, oral lichen planus doesn’t clear. Patients usually continue to have white patches on the lining of their mouths. The treatment will reduce over time, but it isn’t often possible to know beforehand if the condition will become painful.  

What are the long-term complications of lichen planus?

Oral lichen planus may be connected to cancer of the mouth. About 1 – 3% of patients who have had oral lichen planus for a long time may develop mouth cancer. The connection between cancer and oral lichen planus is still unknown, and only a few patients experiencing lichen planus develop oral cancer.

Can I prevent oral lichen planus?

Since the exact cost of oral lichen planus is still unknown, it is impossible to prevent the condition. You can avoid the risk of serious infection in the lining of the mouth with the following.

  • Do not drink large amounts of alcohol
  • Do not smoke
  • Eat plenty of vegetables and fresh fruit

Whether or not you have oral lichen planus, clean your teeth before sleeping at night and at least one other time in the day using fluoride toothpaste. Regular teeth and gums check-ups are important to notice any changes in your mouth lining.

With a thorough dental exam, our dentist can determine if you have lichen planus. Visit McKennell Dental Practice today or call 020 7834 8802 to schedule an appointment for your dental exam.