Teeth Hurt in the Cold? It is Not Normal

6 Things You Need To Know About Oral Lichen Planus

Oral lichen planus is an autoimmune disease that makes your immune system attack the soft tissues inside your mouth, leaving them swollen and irritated. It usually affects the insides of your cheeks, your tongue, or your gums, but it can also affect other areas like the roof of your mouth. Here's what you need to know about this potentially serious oral health problem. 

What causes it?

Researchers still aren't sure what makes your immune system turn against the tissues inside your mouth. They have a few theories as to what makes your white blood cells attack your own healthy cells instead of bacteria. Some diseases like Hepatitis C seem to trigger this reaction. Allergens that come in contact with your mouth, like foods, have also been implicated. Even seemingly harmless medications like ibuprofen may be involved in causing this condition.

Who gets oral lichen planus?

Oral lichen planus can affect anyone, but it's more common in older people. Studies have shown that the average woman with oral lichen planus is 61, and the average man with the condition is 58. It's also much more common in women than in men: about 75% of people with oral lichen planus are women.

Is it a common condition?

Oral lichen planus is fairly rare. One study found that it affects about 1.27% of the general population. The same study also broke down the prevalence rate along gender lines, reporting that 0.96% of men and 1.57% of women suffer from it.

How do you know you have oral lichen planus?

This condition causes many visible symptoms inside your mouth. You may see lots of small white dots on the surface of your tongue or other tissues. These dots tend to form a lace-like pattern. In addition, some areas may be red or swollen, and if your gums are affected, they may peel. Some people also get painful sores inside their mouths; these sores may be mistaken for other conditions such as canker sores.

How serious is this condition?

On its own, oral lichen planus is usually not serious, though it is chronic and can be painful. The real risk with oral lichen planus is its tendency to become malignant. People with oral lichen planus have an increased risk of getting oral cancer, particularly squamous cell carcinoma. For this reason, it's very important that patients with oral lichen planus see their dentist regularly for oral cancer screening.

Can it be treated?

Oral lichen planus can't be cured, but dentists can offer many treatments that will ease your symptoms. The main treatment is corticosteroids. These medications work by both reducing the swelling in the area and reducing the immune response. Corticosteroids are given in many forms, including gels, mouthwashes, and injections.

Immunosuppressants can also be helpful. These medications work by reducing your immune system's strength, which gives your damaged tissues a chance to heal. The problem with immunosuppressant drugs is that they don't just stop the immune response in your mouth; they stop it in your whole body, which leaves you more susceptible to illness.

If these medications don't work, dentists still have more options.  Oral lichen planus can be managed with photochemotherapy, which uses long wave ultraviolet light, or even with laser treatment. These treatments are usually just a last resort but are effective when they're needed.

Oral lichen planus is a painful, chronic condition that affects the inside of your mouth. If you think you have it, you need to see a dentistry clinic in your area right away for treatment. It can't be cured, but there are many treatments that can ease your discomfort and make your mouth heal faster.