Lichen Planus

What is it?

Lichen Planus (pronounced ly-ken plane-us) in the mouth can affect the inside of the cheeks, the tongue or the gums. Usually it appears as white lines or patches, which are occasionally sore, but severe cases can lead to raw, red areas or ulcers, which may be painful. It is relatively common and ooccurs most often in middle aged adults (slightly more women than men).

It is not a progressive condition and although it may persist for several years, it usually becomes less active with time, eventually burning itself out.

In about 1 in 5 people with oral lichen planus the skin is also affected, with itchy purplish scaly patches, particularly inside the wrists and ankles. it may affect the genital area aswell.

What causes it?

The exact cause is unknown, although sometimes certain medications can cause a reaction similar to lichen planus. Otherwise it is thought to be 'immune related' i.e. the white blood cells attack normal parts of the skin or mucous membranes (instead of responding just to injury or infection).

It is not an infection, it is not contagious, it is not a cancer, it does not appear to be inherited and it is not directly related to nutrition.

What makes it worse?

  • Certain foods e.g. wines/spirits, citrus juices, coffee, cola and spicy/crispy foods.
  • Mild trauma, such as rubbing on sharp teeth or fillings.
  • Stress
  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Smoking
  • Contact with amalgam fillings (not proven)
It is usual to confirm clinical diagnosis with a biopsy. This sometimes reveals a fungal infection, which requires anti fungal medication before a re-biopsy will detect underlying lichen planus. It also provides a baseline for any changes seen in the future (blood tests may be taken).

Biopsy is a minor procedure carried out using local anaesthetic to numb the area to be sampled, after which dissolvable sutures are placed. Occasionally the healing areas can be quite painful for several days, so we recommend that you don't plan any important activities during this time and suggest using painkillers and mouthwashes as necessary.

Making an appointment:

Tel:0115 9375828


You can also use our contact form.


Keyworth Dental Practice


18a The Square


NG12 5JT

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Updated June 2019. Created by J J Harvey