SRM Journal of Research in Dental Sciences

: 2020  |  Volume : 11  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 95--98

An unusual presentation of oral lichen planus with desquamative gingivitis

Nisha Ashifa1, S Rajasekar1, Senthil Kumar1, V Parvathi2,  
1 Department of Periodontics, Rajah Muthiah Dental College and Hospital, Annamalai University, Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu, India
2 Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology, Rajah Muthiah Dental College and Hospital, Annamalai University, Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu, India

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Nisha Ashifa
Department of Periodontics, Rajah Muthiah Dental College and Hospital, Annamalai University, Annamalai Nagar, Chidambaram - 608 002, Tamil Nadu


Lichen planus (LP) is a chronic, autoimmune, mucocutaneous disease affecting the skin and mucosa. Oral LP (OLP) usually presents as a bilateral symmetrical lesion that affects approximately 1%–2% of the population. OLP exhibits a wide variety of clinical presentations. This case report deals with a 52-year-old female patient with OLP lesion isolated to the left buccal mucosa and desquamative gingivitis in relation to marginal gingiva of maxillary left premolars with white lacy striae extending from the left- to right-side central incisor region and a brownish-black-pigmented papule to the left angle of lip. Incisional biopsy was performed which revealed typical features of OLP. The patient was advised topical corticosteroids and antioxidants. She was subjected to oral prophylaxis to eliminate local irritating factors and was encouraged to follow meticulous oral hygiene measures to maintain periodontal health following which there was a resolution of the lesion and the symptoms.

How to cite this article:
Ashifa N, Rajasekar S, Kumar S, Parvathi V. An unusual presentation of oral lichen planus with desquamative gingivitis.SRM J Res Dent Sci 2020;11:95-98

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Ashifa N, Rajasekar S, Kumar S, Parvathi V. An unusual presentation of oral lichen planus with desquamative gingivitis. SRM J Res Dent Sci [serial online] 2020 [cited 2022 Sep 25 ];11:95-98
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Oral lichen planus (OLP), a mucosal variant of chronic inflammatory mucocutaneous disorder, was first reported as white papular eruptions in the oral cavity.[1] The prevalence of OLP is estimated to be 1%–2%, more commonly seen in females in the fourth–fifth decade of life.[2]

OLP classically presents as bilateral lesions, which can occur in six clinical types, namely reticular, papular, plaque-like, atrophic, erosive, and bullous.[3],[4] Histopathology usually reveals hyperkeratotic and acanthotic epithelium, with degeneration of basal keratinocytes and a band-like lymphocytic infiltration in the subepithelium.[5] To ensure accurate diagnosis, it is necessary to correlate clinicopathological and histopathological features.

Almost 10% of the patients with OLP show gingival involvement.[2],[6] Gingival lesions involving the marginal and attached gingiva often present as fiery red, shiny, smooth, and/or atrophic. Such lesions are termed “desquamative gingivitis.”[3],[4]

 Case Report

A 52-year-old female patient reported to the Department of Periodontics with a chief complaint of burning sensation in the upper left gum region for the past 2 months which was of insidious onset, moderate intensity, and aggravated on eating spicy food. The patient is a teacher by profession. She had no significant medical history, drug history, and family history. This was the patient's first dental visit. On extraoral examination, a brownish-black-pigmented papule was noted on the left angle of the lip [Figure 1]. On intraoral examination, erythematous marginal gingiva in relation to 24 and 25 [Figure 2], white striae in marginal gingiva in relation to 11, 21, 22, 23, 34, 35, 36, and 37 [Figure 3], and white radiating lines seen in relation to left posterior buccal mucosa in relation to 28 and 38 were noted. An irregular reticular patch measuring 1.5 cm × 1.2 cm was also noted on the left buccal mucosa in relation to 24, 25, 26, and 27 [Figure 4]. Full-mouth periodontal assessment was done. The Simplified Oral hygiene Index was used to assess the oral hygiene status of the patient, which was found to be fair. The generalized periodontal probing depth was PD ≤3 mm.{Figure 1}{Figure 2}{Figure 3}{Figure 4}

On palpation, the lesion on the buccal mucosa was asymptomatic, smooth, and nonscrapable, and the gingival lesions were tender. The patient was subjected to routine hematological investigations and random blood sugar evaluation. The blood parameters were within physiological limits. The history and clinical features were suggestive of OLP, which was considered to be the provisional diagnosis and the differential diagnosis being lichenoid drug reaction.

After obtaining the patient's consent, an incisional biopsy of the left buccal mucosa was done and sent for histopathological evaluation. Histopathological examination of a biopsy specimen showed parakeratinized stratified squamous epithelium with elongated rete ridges and moderately fibrous connective tissue. There was a moderate infiltration of lymphocytes in subepithelial lamina propria, infiltrating the basal portion of the surface epithelium. Basal cell degeneration and separation of the epithelium were also noted [Figure 5] and [Figure 6], thus confirming the diagnosis of OLP.{Figure 5}{Figure 6}

The patient was advised to use topical triamcinolone 1% ointment three times daily for 2 weeks applied directly to the lesion. She was also prescribed antioxidant capsule Oxitard™ once daily for 2 months. The patient was subjected to oral prophylaxis to eliminate the local irritating factors and also motivated to maintain a high level of oral hygiene and attend regular follow-up appointments to ensure the maintenance of oral health.

The patient was reviewed after 2 weeks. The lesions showed a resolution of erythema in relation to marginal gingiva of 24 and 25 regions. Other areas of the lesion showed a significant improvement. The patient is still under follow-up.


Although the trigger factor of OLP is unknown, recent data suggests that its occurrence is attributed to abnormal T-cell-mediated immune response. The increased production of TH1 cytokines is said to be responsible for the development of lichen planus (LP). Genetic polymorphism of cytokines determines the site of occurrence of these lesions. The lesions that develop in the oral cavity alone are associated with interferon-gamma (IFN-γ), and those that involve oral cavity and skin are associated with tumor necrosis factor-alpha The T-cells migrate toward the oral epithelium, bind to keratinocytes and IFN-γ, and upregulate p53, MMP1, and MMP3 that lead to apoptosis of basal keratinocytes. The chronic course of OLP could be a result of the activation of nuclear factor-kappa B.[6]

OLP has the potential for malignant transformation, and the annual malignant transformation rate is reported to be <1%.[7],[8] Mignogna et al. reported that regular follow-up at least three times a year combined with strict clinical examination of the lesions can lead to prompt diagnosis at the early stages of malignant transformation.[9]

Bilateral occurrence of OLP is common and usually appears as a mixture of the clinical subtypes.[4] It is highly unusual for OLP lesions to occur in a single oral site other than gingiva. However, patients occasionally present with isolated lesions on the lip or tongue.[6]

Gingiva is a common site of involvement after buccal mucosa and tongue.[4] Mignogna et al. reported that 48% of the patients (336 out of 700 patients) presented with gingival lesions and isolated gingival involvement was found to be in 7.4% of the cases.[5] Camacho-Alonso et al. also reported a similar prevalence rate of gingival involvement of 38.4%, and the predominant gingival location in all the clinical forms was the simultaneous involvement of attached and marginal gingiva.[2]

Desquamative gingivitis is the most common type of gingival lesions observed in OLP.[6] It is characterized by intense erythema, ulceration, and desquamation of the marginal and attached gingiva. Symptoms may vary from mild discomfort to severe pain and burning sensation, with the severity of symptoms increasing from keratotic to the erosive forms. Due to the discomfort caused by the symptoms, patients may not be able to effectively practice oral hygiene measures. This leads to increased accumulation of local factors, increased gingival inflammation, and periodontal breakdown. For periodontal health maintenance in OLP, it is essential to achieve adequate plaque control. Hence, daily home care and professional oral hygiene measures are required for the symptomatic treatment of OLP lesions.[5],[10],[11] Garcia-Pola et al. reported that methodical maintenance of oral hygiene is effective in reducing clinical signs of the disease regardless of its pathogenesis. The authors also recommend the usage of toothbrushes with soft or extra-soft bristles, dental floss, and chlorhexidine mouthrinse twice a daily, initially with 0.2% concentration, continuing with the 0.12% concentration for 1–4 weeks.[12] Gingival OLP can also occur as small, raised, white, lacy papules or plaque-like lesions.[6]

The diagnosis of OLP and oral lichenoid reaction (OLR) requires a correlation of clinical and histopathological examination. The need for a recognized causative agent is essential for the diagnosis of OLR to establish a cause-to-effect relationship, which resolves on the removal of the offending agent.[3],[13] Furthermore, the correlation of clinical and histopathological features in the present case has led to the confirmation of the diagnosis of OLP.

In the above-mentioned case, the patient reported with symptomatic gingival lesion in relation to 24 and 25; therefore, the patient was prescribed a topical corticosteroid, three times daily for 2 weeks following oral prophylaxis. The patient also presented with a nonscrapable grayish-white-colored patch without any pain or discomfort in the left posterior buccal mucosa and at the left angle of the lip. White lacy striations on the marginal gingiva of 11, 21, 22, 23, 34, 35, 36, and 37 were noted. The patient did not report with any cutaneous lesion. She was not under any medication nor underwent any dental treatment at the time of reporting to the clinics, so the cause-to-effect relationship could not be established. Histopathologically, the lesion showed typical features of OLP. Biopsy of erosive gingival lesions is generally avoided due to the desquamation of the epithelium and the presence of nonspecific inflammatory changes.[14]

This patient presented with lesions on the left buccal mucosa and left angle of the lip. A similar unilateral mucosal presentation of OLP was reported by Bajpai et al.[15] Hartl et al. described a rare case of cutaneous and mucosal linear LP with unilateral restriction, with lesions restricted to the left side of the neck, tongue, and buccal mucosa.[16] Rekha et al. reported multiple brownish-black-pigmented papules in the lips, but in this case, the lesion is isolated to the left angle of the lip.[17] This patient also reported with white lacy striation in the marginal gingiva of 11, 21, 22, 23, 34, 35, 36, and 37, which is similar to white striations in the labial gingiva of 13 and 14, reported by Alsarraf et al.[1]


OLP is an inflammatory mucocutaneous disorder with a significant gingival involvement. Since OLP can occur with wide variations in clinical appearance, they are often misdiagnosed or undiagnosed. Early diagnosis and treatment of OLP is of utmost importance as it can be detrimental to overall and periodontal health. The role of general dentists, periodontists, pathologists, and hygienists is imperative for the proper maintenance of oral, periodontal, and general health of the patient. Vigilant follow-up of the patient is essential due to the risk of malignant transformation of OLP. Patients should be made aware of the triggering factors and the potential risks associated with OLP for them to comply with the treatment measures. This article not only presents an unusual presentation of OLP with desquamative gingivitis but also focuses on the conventional periodontal management for the same.

Declaration of patient consent

The authors certify that they have obtained all appropriate patient consent forms. In the form the patient(s) has/have given his/her/their consent for his/her/their images and other clinical information to be reported in the journal. The patients understand that their names and initials will not be published and due efforts will be made to conceal their identity, but anonymity cannot be guaranteed.

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.


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