What is the cause of oral lichen planus (OLP)?

Updated: Sep 15, 2020
  • Author: Jaisri R Thoppay, DDS, MBA, MS; Chief Editor: Jeff Burgess, DDS, MSD  more...
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Current data suggest that oral lichen planus (OLP) is a T-cell–mediated autoimmune disease in which autocytotoxic CD8+ T cells trigger the apoptosis of oral epithelial cells. However, the precise cause of oral lichen planus is unknown.

Reported associations between oral lichen planus and systemic diseases may be coincidental, because (1) oral lichen planus is relatively common, (2) oral lichen planus occurs predominantly in older adults, and (3) many drugs used in the treatment of systemic diseases trigger the development of oral lichenoid lesions as an adverse effect.

In many patients, a cause for the oral lichenoid lesions cannot be identified; in these patients, the disease is called idiopathic oral lichen planus.

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