Do you have white, lacy patches on your gums, tongue, or inner cheeks? If so, you may have oral lichen planus (OLP), a chronic inflammatory condition affecting your mouth’s mucous membranes. Though OLP is usually painless, it can cause significant oral discomfort, like difficulty eating and talking. In this blog post, we’ll explain what OLP is, what causes it, and how it’s treated. 

Read to learn more.

What is Oral Lichen Planus?

Oral lichen planus is an inflammatory condition of the mucous membranes in your mouth, characterized by white, lacy patches. These patches can be found on the gums, inner cheeks, tongue, or roof of the mouth. OLP may also cause red sores and/or ulcers to form in these areas. 

Oral lichen planus is an immune-mediated disorder that cannot be transmitted from person to person. It occurs when the body’s defense system launches a misguided attack on healthy cells of the oral mucous membranes for unknown reasons.

Though OLP is generally painless, it can cause significant discomfort, like making eating and talking difficult.

What Triggers Oral Lichen Planus?

The exact cause of OLP is unknown. However, some factors are thought to increase the risk of developing OLP, such as:

  • Certain medications (including calcium channel blockers, antimalarials, etc.)
  • Antibiotics
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Environmental pollutants
  • Mouth injury
  • Genetic disposition
  • Suffering from Hepatitis C
  • Stress

Types of Oral Lichen Planus

There are six clinical types of OLP:

Reticular: This is the most common type, characterized by white striations that cross each other over a red or pink background

Atrophic: Marked by areas of erythema (redness) surrounded by white reticular patches

Papular: Appears as raised bumps on the mucous membranes

Bullous: Fluid-filled blisters on the mucous membranes

Plaque:  Appears as a smooth, raised plaque on the mucous membranes

Erosive or ulcerative:  Erosives are shallow, painful ulcers on the mucous membranes

Symptoms of Oral Lichen Planus

  • White lacy patches on the cheek and tongue 
  • Reddish swollen gum tissues 
  • Painful mouth ulcers or sores 
  • Dry mouth 
  • Burning sensation in the mouth
  • Sensitivity to hot, acidic, or spicy foods
  • Bleeding and irritation when brushing
  • Gingivitis

The symptoms can usually be managed, but people with OLP need regular monitoring because they may be at risk of developing mouth cancer.

Treatment for Oral Lichen Planus

The goal of treatment is to reduce inflammation, relieve discomfort, and slow or stop the progression of OLP. Treatment options may include:

  • Topical corticosteroids – Are applied directly to the infected area and can help reduce inflammation
  • Antihistamines – Can help reduce itching and burning
  • Oral corticosteroids – Are taken orally and can help reduce inflammation
  • Oral retinoids – Used with topical treatments, oral retinoids may help slow the progression of OLP
  • Light therapy – Low-level laser treatment has been shown to be an effective treatment for OLP
  • Dental hygiene – Proper dental hygiene is essential for keeping the mouth healthy
  • Phototherapy – This treatment exposes the infected tissue to a low dose of UV light
  • Immunosuppressant medications – These medications suppress the immune system and can help reduce inflammation
  • Surgery – In some cases, surgery may be necessary to remove affected tissue.


Patients might suffer from depression, stress, anxiety, pain, and weight loss due to malnutrition or scarring after a surgical procedure. Moreover, they are slightly more likely to develop oral cancer.

Monroe dentist Dr. K thus recommends that patients do their best to take good care of their oral hygiene and visit a dentist for periodic check-ups. If you have any additional questions or concerns about oral lichen planus, please do not hesitate to contact us at 704-753-0753.

Our Dental Practice in Monroe, NC

Monroe Family Dentistry is there for you and your children from day one and we are happy to work with you and your child to start habits from birth. If you live near Monroe, NC call us to schedule an appointment today at 704.776.4278.

These are just some of the services we provide. To learn more about our dental practice in Monroe NC and the services we provide, call us or submit an appointment request.

Oral Lichen Planus Explained
Article Name
Oral Lichen Planus Explained
White, lacy patches on your gums, tongue, or inner cheeks? You may have oral lichen planus (OLP), a chronic inflammatory condition that affects the mucous membranes in your mouth. Learn more about OLP in this blog post.
Dr. Mjahed's Team
Monroe Family Dentistry
Monroe Family Dentistry