Oral lichen planus (OLP) is a chronic inflammatory disease of unknown etiology. In this paper we review the clinical and histological features of OLP, process of OLP diagnosis, causes of OLP, management of OLP patients and medical treatment of OLP lesions. Approximately 0.2 per cent OLP patients develop intra-oral carcinoma each year compared with approximately 0.005 per cent Australian adults. Possible mechanisms of increased oral cancer risk in OLP patients are presented. The aims of current OLP therapy are to eliminate mucosal erythema and ulceration, alleviate symptoms and reduce the risk of oral cancer. Patient education may improve the outcomes of OLP therapy and further reduce the risk of oral cancer in OLP patients. Although OLP may be diagnosed clinically, appropriate specialist referral is required for: (i) histological diagnosis; (ii) assessment of causative/exacerbating factors, associated diseases and oral cancer risk; (iii) patient education and management; (iv) medical treatment; and (v) long-term review and re-biopsy as required.