What Causes a Scab on the Lip?


Discovering a scab on your lip can be distressing. Scabs in this area can make daily activities like eating and drinking difficult, and since they're so visible, they may reduce your self-confidence. There are many possible causes for a scab on the lip, but rest assured, there are ways you can help it heal.

Possible Causes of Lip Scabs

There are many possible causes of scabs on the lips. A scab can develop from something as simple as a small cut on the lip that's beginning to heal. Scabs can also occur when the lips become chapped and cracked.

Cold sores may lead to scabs on the lips. These sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus type 1. During cold sore outbreaks, tiny blisters, known as fever blisters, form on the lips. The blisters then pop, forming painful sores that can have scab-like crusts.

Occasionally, scabs on the lips can signal more serious problems. An irregular, red patch on the lip that becomes crusty and scab-like may be a sign of lip cancer.

Encouraging the Healing Process

Since scabs on the lips can be uncomfortable, you may want to speed up the healing process. Resist the temptation to pick at the scab. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) explains that scabs protect the tissue underneath from germs, so removing a scab could lead to an infection.

If the scab is caused by a cold sore, holding a damp, cool cloth against the scab may help it heal more quickly. Cold sore ointments, which are available over-the-counter, can also help shorten outbreaks.

To soothe chapped lips, the NIH suggests applying beeswax or petroleum jelly to the lips. In the winter when the air is especially dry and cold, drinking additional fluids can help keep your body and lips hydrated.

Rest assured that scabs on the lips heal relatively quickly. If the scabs are caused by cold sores, they will usually heal completely within eight to 10 days. Scabs that are caused by small cuts or dry skin may heal in even less time.

When to See a Doctor or Dentist

If a scab doesn't heal by itself, see your dentist or doctor. The scab may be a sign of another serious issue or lip cancer. When they're caught early, lip cancers may be curable.

You should seek medical attention if the scab becomes infected. The University of Wisconsin-Madison explains that redness streaking from the scab, increased pain or swelling of the scab and pus drainage could be signs of an infection.

A scab on the lip has many possible causes, but in most cases, it will go away on its own within a short period of time. If you're concerned about a scab that doesn't seem to be getting better, seek the advice of your doctor or dentist.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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As we get older, dental care for adults is crucial. Here are a few of the conditions to be aware of:

Gum disease – if your home care routine of brushing and flossing has slipped and you have skipped your regular dental cleanings, bacterial plaque and tartar can build up on your teeth. The plaque and tartar, if left untreated, may eventually cause irreparable damage to your jawbone and support structures, and could lead to tooth loss.

Oral cancer – according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, men over the age of 40 have the greatest risk for oral cancer. About approximately 43,000 people will be diagnosed with cancer of the mouth, tongue or throat area, and the ACS estimates that about 7,000 people will die from these cancers. The use of tobacco products and alcohol increases the risk of oral cancer. Most oral cancers are first diagnosed by the dentist during a routine checkup.

Dental fillings break down – fillings have a life expectancy of eight to 10 years. However, they can last 20 years or longer. When the fillings in your mouth start to break down, food and bacteria can get underneath them and can cause decay deep in the tooth.