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Rash Around the Mouth? Perioral Dermatitis and What It Means for You

A rash around your mouth can be frustrating to deal with, especially when it doesn't go away on its own. There are a surprising amount of potential causes of your perioral dermatitis, so it's a good thing there are professionals at your disposal to help with diagnosis and treatment. We've got your back to help you understand what causes this condition, how to avoid worsening it, and who can help.

Rash Around the Mouth: Causes

While perioral dermatitis (also called periorificial dermatitis) may sound like technical jargon, it’s easy to understand once you break it down. Perioral means “near your mouth,” and dermatitis refers to a rash that is typically red, scaly, or bumpy in appearance.

This rash is not contagious but may be accompanied by itching, burning, or discomfort. It typically occurs around your mouth but can also affect other areas on your head, like your eyes, nose, neck, or scalp.

The exact cause of perioral dermatitis is unknown, but its risk factors may include:

  • Use of topical steroids, inhaled steroids, facial moisturizer, fluoride toothpaste, and chewing gum
  • Being female and between 25 to 45 years old
  • Hormonal fluctuations and contraceptives
  • Issues with microorganisms (like bacteria and pathogens), particularly in your skin or gut
  • Immune disorders
  • Stress

Helpful tip: If your rash has yellow bumps instead of red bumps, this may indicate that your rash is a condition called granulomatous dermatitis, a condition that’s more common in children.

Professional Resources

It’s a great idea to seek professional help for your perioral dermatitis as the condition does not always resolve on its own, can worsen, and can persist for months or years untreated. This rash is sometimes mistaken for acne or other conditions because of its similar appearance to the untrained eye. Your skin's health is complicated, so it can be challenging to discern the underlying cause of a rash and navigate appropriate treatment options on your own.

Rest assured that there are experts available to help. Your dental professional, primary care provider (PCP), or dermatologist (doctor specializing in skincare) are all helpful resources for this condition.

When you meet with a professional, they will likely:

  • Ask you your medical history, including your diet, medications you take, and products you use that may act as irritants
  • Try to identify and diagnose the cause of your dermatitis
  • Recommend treatment options to reduce your dermatitis symptoms or address its underlying cause

Treatment Options

Because dermatitis has various underlying causes, the appropriate treatment options for your condition will vary. You can take some steps while waiting for your appointment with a professional to help ensure the condition doesn’t worsen in the meantime and to remove irritants potentially.

There is no cure for dermatitis. However, according to the Cleveland Clinic, a treatment that works for your rash is likely to work again if and when the condition reoccurs.

Treatment and relief options for perioral dermatitis may include:

  • Avoid using products that could irritate the affected area, including moisturizers, creams, makeup, and sunscreen.
  • Skip out on scrubbing or overly-harsh cleaning of the area.
  • Stop chewing gum that could trigger the rash.
  • Choose a gentle soap or soap substitute that’s gentle on your skin.
  • Avoid fluoride products like toothpaste that could trigger the rash.
  • Discontinue the use of topical steroids not prescribed by a professional.
  • Consult your dental or medical professional for expert diagnosis and treatment options; they may prescribe antibiotics, topicals, or lifestyle changes.

It’s a safe bet to discontinue the use of topical steroids and toothpaste with fluoride to avoid a rash on your rash. The best toothpaste for perioral dermatitis is any non-abrasive toothpaste that contains no fluoride.

Perioral dermatitis is a condition that may reoccur throughout your life, so you've made a great decision to educate yourself on its causes and treatment. You're now prepared to avoid irritants and engage with professionals to best set yourself up for long-term success.

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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