What is Oral Lichen Planus?

Oral lichen planus is a chronic inflammatory disorder that affects the mucous membranes of the mouth and throat, including the tongue and gingivae. It is most commonly seen in middle-aged adults.

Disease Pathogenesis

Lichen planus is an immune-mediated disorder of unknown etiology with a proposed basis in autoimmunity. Oral lichen planus is considered to be a pre-malignant condition with risk of transformation to oral squamous cell carcinoma.


Oral lichen can affect the tongue, lips, gums and mucosa of the cheeks and lips.

Patients may experience:

  • Painful bleeding sores
  • White lacy patches or plaques
  • Bleeding and swelling of the gums
  • Pain with swallowing


A dermatologist will do a visual examination and may perform an oral biopsy to sample the affected area to confirm the diagnosis and rule out other oral erosive conditions.

Though there is no cure for lichen planus, treatment can induce disease remission and relieve symptoms of pain and discomfort. Medical therapies include topical and systemic medications including cytotoxic agents, immunosuppressants, biologics and IVIG.

Dr. Fazel

Nasim Fazel, M.D., D.D.S., M.A.S.

Associate Clinical Professor
Director, Oral Mucosal Disease Clinic

Full Bio