The phrase "smiling through the pain" takes on new meaning for patients of angular Cheilitis. Also known as perlèche, angular stomatitis, or cheilosis, angular Cheilitis describes the inflammation and dry, cracked skin at one or both corners of the mouth. Suppose the patient opens their mouth too wide. In that case, the skin can split and bleed, making eating, talking, and even smiling uncomfortable. But what causes this painful condition, and — more importantly — how can you find relief?
Angular Cheilitis: Symptoms, Causes and Treatments
Angular Cheilitis often begins when saliva collects at the corners of the mouth for an extended period. When the saliva finally dries, the skin around the mouth also becomes dry, cracked, and irritated. You may repeatedly lick your lips to alleviate the dryness, causing even more irritation. The moist cracked skin creates the perfect environment for certain microorganisms — like bacteria and Candida yeast — causing swelling, itching, and burning. Mouth patches may eventually appear white, scaly, and blistered.
Angular Cheilitis affects people of all ages and is commonly treated in dental offices and dermatology clinics. According to the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology, the cause for excess saliva around the corners of the mouth can vary and includes:
- Misaligned bite and orthodontic treatments
- Poor-fitting dentures
- Sagging skin caused by weight loss or aging
- Thumb-sucking and excessive lip licking in children
- Excessive mouth washing or aggressive use of dental floss
- Genetic conditions like Down syndrome and Sjögren's syndrome
- Weakened immune systems, specifically in those with diabetes or HIV
- Nutritional deficiencies, especially the lack of vitamin B or iron
Don't just put on some lip balm and ignore it. Your dentist or primary care physician will be able to tell if you are infectious and if your symptoms are caused by fungi, bacteria, or an underlying condition. Depending on the cause, your dentist or physician may prescribe a variety of treatments, including:
- Steroid, antibiotic or antifungal cream to treat infections
- Zinc oxide, petroleum jelly, or lip balm with SPF to protect the skin barrier
- Dental work to repair dentures or a misaligned bite
- Behavior modifications to prevent lip-smacking, thumb-sucking, or aggressive use of floss
- Diet changes or vitamin supplements to correct nutritional deficiencies
- Proper oral hygiene routine to keep lips and mouth clean and free from infections
Visit your dentist or physician as soon as possible to treat your angular Cheilitis. Early treatment can clear up the infection and symptoms in as little as a few days, so don't waste time waiting to smile again!
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.