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Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD)

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Oral lichen planus

Other Names for this Disease
  • Oral lichenoid lesions
See Disclaimer regarding information on this site. Some links on this page may take you to organizations outside of the National Institutes of Health.

Your Question

I have had oral lichen planus for a number of years. The condition is becoming painful. How is this condition treated? How can I be seen by researchers at the National Institutes of Health? How can I find a specialist in my area?

Our Answer

We have identified the following information that we hope you find helpful. If you still have questions, please contact us.

What is oral lichen planus?

Oral lichen planus is a inflammatory condition that affects the inside of the mouth.  Signs and symptoms include patches of fine white lines and dots most commonly in the inside of the cheeks, gums, and/or tongue. Most people with lichen planus experience no to few symptoms, others may have painful sores or ulcers in the mouth. Severe lichen planus slightly increases the risk for oral cancer. Oral lichen planus may occur alone or in combination with other skin forms of lichen planus.[1][2][3]
Last updated: 7/20/2011

How might oral lichen planus be treated?

It is important to identify and remove any potential agent that might have caused a lichenoid reaction.[4] Chemicals or medications associated with development of lichen planus include gold, antibiotics, arsenic, iodides, chloroquine, quinacrine, quinidine, antimony, phenothiazines, diuretics such as chlorothiazide, and many others.[1] Consideration regarding role of drugs that were started in recent months prior to the on set of oral lichen planus, as well as any contact allergens identified by patch testing is recommended.[4]

Symptoms may improve with the following measures:[4]

Meticulous oral hygiene
Stopping smoking
Topical steroids as drops, pastes, gels or sprays (e.g., triamcinolone paste)
Steroid injections (intralesional triamcinolone)
Mouth rinse containing the calcineurin inhibitors: cyclosporin or tacrolimus

In severe cases systemic corticosteroids may be used.[4]

Other possible therapeutic agents may include:[4]

Systemic retinoids (acitretin or isotretinoin)
Low molecular weight heparin

Last updated: 7/20/2011

How can I find a local physician experienced in treating oral lichen planus?

We recommend that you speak with your dentist or primary care provider to request a referral to an appropriate specialist (e.g., oral medical specialist) in your area. To read about different types of specialists and what they do, you can visit the following link to Harvard Medical School’s Family Health Guide: 

You can find a more extensive list of directories to help you find health professionals, services and facilities by visiting the Web page at the following link.
Last updated: 7/20/2011