Oral Mucosal DOJ PhotoOral mucosal diseases can cause painful mouth problems. You may find it difficult to eat, drink or even to talk. But at UC Davis Dermatology, we are home to one of the nation’s only specialty clinics exclusively focused on oral mucosal diseases. We have the expertise to get you relief so you can enjoy life’s pleasures again.

What is oral mucosal disease?

The oral mucosa is the mucous membrane lining or “skin” inside of the mouth, including cheeks and lips. People with oral mucosal diseases may develop painful mouth sores or ulcers on this lining.

Mucosal diseases can affect any mucous membrane. These membranes are also found inside the nasal passages, eyes, genitals and digestive tract.

What causes oral mucosal disease?

Oral mucosal diseases may have an autoimmune link, meaning the body’s immune system attacks healthy cells. Some mucosal diseases are inherited.

Why choose UC Davis for oral mucosal disease care

Our Oral Mucosal Disease Clinic offers the highest level of expertise and care on the West Coast. You benefit from:

  • Exclusive expertise: Clinic director Nasim Fazel, M.D., D.D.S., is board certified in dermatology and dentistry. Very few oral mucosal disease specialists in the U.S. have completed such rigorous training. Her dual degrees make Dr. Fazel highly specialized in treating and managing various oral mucosal diseases. People nationwide come to UC Davis seeking Dr. Fazel’s renowned help and expertise.
  • Elite clinic: Our clinic is the only one on the West Coast run by a physician who is both a dermatologist and a dentist. There are only a handful of oral mucosal clinics in the nation that have this distinction. We exclusively care for people with oral mucosal diseases.
  • Latest treatments: We are actively involved in dermatology research and clinical trials to find new treatments for oral mucosal diseases. Dr. Fazel is nationally known for her research on oral lichen planus and Behcet disease. She also has a special focus on the use of novel stem cell therapies.
  • Care for all ages: Oral mucosal diseases affect children and adults. We provide complete care for all ages.

Our mucosal disease partners

Mucosal diseases can affect different parts of the body. We partner with other UC Davis specialists to provide comprehensive care. Depending on your unique situation, you may also see specialists in:

Oral mucosal diseases we treat

Your physician customizes a treatment plan based on disease type and symptoms. We treat all oral mucosal disease types, including:

Behcet disease

Dr. Fazel is nationally recognized for her research on Behcet disease (sometimes called Behcet’s syndrome). This rare condition inflames blood vessels throughout the body and can cause joint pain.

People with Behcet disease develop painful sores on the lips, tongue, cheeks, roof of the mouth, throat and tonsils. Sores also commonly occur on the genitals, eyes and skin. While the cause is unknown, the condition may be inherited or triggered by autoimmune disease.

In addition to clinical trial therapies, treatments include:

  • Prescription mouthwash to relieve pain and discomfort
  • Topical or oral corticosteroids to ease inflammation
  • Immunosuppressants to help control the immune system and alleviate inflammation
  • Selective phosphodiesterase 4 (PDE4) inhibitors (Otezla®) to treat oral ulcers 

Burning mouth syndrome

This condition causes a painful burning, scalding or tingling sensation in the mouth. Symptoms most often affect the tongue and lips. The problem does not cause blisters, but it can affect taste.

Burning mouth syndrome is more common in older women. Possible causes include:

  • Anemia
  • Chronic dry mouth
  • Diabetes
  • Medications
  • Vitamin and other nutritional deficiencies

You receive specialized care for this painful disorder that can be challenging to treat. Because this condition affects everyone differently, we customize a treatment plan just for you. Treatments may include:

  • Lifestyle modifications (dietary or medication changes)
  • Oral and topical pain relievers
  • Vitamin supplements
  • Saliva substitutes and stimulants
  • Medications such as benzodiazepines, tricyclic antidepressants and gabapentin

Oral lichen planus

This chronic condition inflames the mucous membranes of the cheeks, tongue, gums and esophagus. It can also affect the genitals and skin. People with this disorder develop red, swollen tissues and white, lacy patches on mucous membranes. Painful, burning sores may also develop.

The disease may be an autoimmune disorder and is most common in women over age 50. People with oral lichen planus have a higher risk of developing oral cancer, a type of head and neck cancer. For this reason, it is important to receive regular care from an oral lichen planus specialist. While there is no cure for oral lichen planus, the right treatments can ease symptoms and control the disease.

Oral lichen planus is one of Dr. Fazel’s specialties. She conducts ongoing research and clinical trials to find new ways to treat the disorder. Depending on your health status, you may be able to try a clinical trial therapy or one of these treatments:

  • Topical or oral corticosteroids to reduce swelling
  • Immunosuppressants to control an overactive immune system response
  • Intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) antibodies therapy to fight infections

Pemphigus and pemphigoid

These rare autoimmune diseases cause fluid-filled blisters to form on the skin and in mucous membranes throughout the body. The blisters may cause painful itching or burning sensations. Extensive blistering can lead to fluid loss and infections.

We focus on treating your symptoms and putting the disease into remission. Treatments include:

  • Antibiotics to treat infections
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs to minimize swelling and inflammation
  • B-cell therapy (Rituxan®) to destroy abnormal B cells
  • Topical, injectable or oral corticosteroids to decrease inflammation and swelling
  • Immunosuppressants to manage an overactive immune system
  • Intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) therapy to generate antibodies that fight infection

Recurrent aphthous stomatitis

This condition causes painful, sometimes burning, blisters to form on the inside lining of the lips or mouth. It often develops during childhood.

People with aphthous stomatitis may have other conditions, such as:

  • Behcet disease
  • Celiac disease
  • Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
  • Inflammatory bowel disease

Treatments include:

  • Prescription mouthwash to kill mouth bacteria and ease ulcer pain
  • Topical, oral or injectable corticosteroid to decrease inflammation
  • Immunosuppressants to slow the immune system’s response and reduce inflammation

Sjögren’s syndrome

This autoimmune disease affects saliva and tear production leading to dry mouth and eyes. The disorder is most common in women over 40. It can also cause:

  • Digestive problems
  • Dry skin
  • Fatigue
  • Joint pain

People with Sjögren’s syndrome often have other autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus. That’s why we partner with experts in our Rheumatology-Dermatology Clinic to manage all of your symptoms. Treatments may include:

  • Artificial tear solutions to moisturize and soothe irritated dry eyes
  • Saliva substitutes or stimulants to increase saliva production
  • Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen, to alleviate pain
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs, including corticosteroids, to reduce swelling and inflammation
  • Immunosuppressants to slow the immune system’s response and reduce inflammation
  • Anti-rheumatics to treat rheumatoid arthritis pain and swelling

Contact us

To schedule an appointment, please call (800) 770-9282 or (916) 734-6111.