Erosive lichen planus is an inflammatory disease of autoimmune origin that is characterized by chronic, erosive lesions inside the mouth. This disease can't be cured, but with the help of your dentist, its effects can be managed. Here are three things you need to know about erosive lichen planus.
What are the signs of erosive lichen planus?
If you have erosive lichen planus, you'll notice erosive lesions, also known as ulcers, inside your mouth. These lesions can form on any part of your oral mucosa (the mucus membrane that lines the inside of your mouth). The lesions are shallow ulcers with yellow surfaces, and the edges of the ulcers are red and swollen. Most patients also have white streaks or dots on the insides of their cheeks.
The lesions are painful, though the amount of pain varies significantly between sufferers: some people only suffer sensitivity, while others suffer from debilitating pain. This pain is aggravated by activities such as eating hot or spicy foods or brushing the teeth.
The lesions associated with erosive lichen planus last for many years. Over the years, you'll experience flare-ups where the lesions get worse, followed by periods where the lesions improve. If you notice these lesions, speak to your dentist.
What complications can it cause?
Erosive lichen planus can lead to many distressing oral complications. During flare-ups, you may have trouble maintaining your oral hygiene routine as tooth brushing can aggravate the ulcers. Not being able to brush your teeth can lead to well-known problems like tooth decay, gingivitis, and periodontitis.
Fortunately, your dentist can help you keep your teeth clean during your flare-ups to prevent these problems. Your dentist can offer professional cleanings as well as alternative tooth-cleaning methods like sponge toothettes or mouth rinses.
The condition can lead to another serious oral health problem: oral cancer. Oral lichen planus has been linked to an increased risk of oral cancer, specifically squamous cell carcinoma. Squamous cell carcinoma develops in the squamous cells, the flat cells that make up the surface of your oral mucosa. Regular oral cancer screenings from your dentist can help mitigate this risk as if cancer develops, it can be diagnosed and treated early.
How is it managed?
Your dentist can prescribe medications to ease the pain of your erosive lesions. Topical steroids are considered the first-line of treatment for the condition. Steroids work by suppressing inflammation and suppressing your immune system, so they can help reduce your pain as well as control your flare-ups.
If topical steroids don't work for you, your dentist may prescribe the steroids in spray form. Studies have shown that steroids can reduce pain more effectively when given as a spray.
Steroids aren't the only treatment for erosive lichen planus. Your dentist may recommend applying aloe vera gel, which is generally used to ease the pain of sunburns, to your lesions. Studies have shown that aloe vera gel is six times more likely to improve pain symptoms than a placebo, so it's worth a try if steroids don't work for you.
Your dentist can also recommend home remedies to help you manage your symptoms. You may need to make changes to your diet to avoid further irritating your lesions. This may involve cutting out spicy, acidic, or sweet foods and drinks. Sharp foods like chips can also cause further irritation and should be avoided. Your dentist may recommend choosing bland, soft foods like mashed potatoes, dairy products, breads, hot cereals, eggs, and soups.
If you think you have erosive lichen planus, see your dentist right away. Your dentist can help you avoid the oral health complications associated with this disease and can also help you manage the symptoms.