Lichen planus is a chronic, inflammatory condition that normally affects the skin, but can appear inside the mouth as well. The cause for lichen planus is unknown, but it is believed that it is caused by the immune system attacking the body. This condition is long-term (the average case lasting 10 years) but it is temporary and its symptoms can be managed.
There are two types of oral lichen planus: reticular and erosive.
- Reticular Lichen Planus: this version appears as fine, white lines inside the mouth. Reticular lichen planus usually does not require treatment as it is normally painless and asymptomatic.
- Erosive Lichen Planus: This version of lichen planus appears as red sores or erosions inside the mouth. These sores can be painful and have a burning sensation, so treatment options are often sought out for erosive lichen planus.
Besides its appearance and discomfort, erosive lichen planus may show additional symptoms such as:
- Change in taste
- Sensitivity to hot or spicy foods
- Inflamed gums
- Bleeding when you brush your teeth
There is no cure for lichen planus, but there are ways to manage the symptoms of it such as:
- Corticosteroids: These are powerful, anti-inflammatory drugs which are often used to treat the pain of erosive lichen planus sores. Corticosteroids are often applied topically to the areas affected.
- Immune Response Medication: These drugs modify or suppress the body’s immune system response. They aren’t often used for treatment unless the lichen planus is severe, affecting other parts of the body.
- Treat Triggers: If your dentist or physician feels that certain triggers may be related to your lichen planus, they may recommend focusing treatment for these triggers. Triggers may include allergies, medication, hepatitis infection, stress, etc.
You should also continue brushing and flossing your teeth and avoid acidic, salty, or alcoholic foods which can irritate your mouth.