How do I get rid of these sores in the corners of my mouth?

by Dr. Joseph Thompson

Sores in the corners of the mouth - Angular CheilitisPatients that develop sores in the corners of their mouth may have a condition called angular cheilitis.

Angular Cheilitis is also known as angular stomatitis or perleche.   Angular cheilitis is a bacterial or fungus infection of the corners of the mouth.

The areas usually are painful, looks red, inflamed, has cracked crusty skin and will not heal.  Angular cheilitis often appears in the dry winter months where the skin can be dry and have cracks.  These cracks in the skin that allow bacteria or fungus to take hold.

Sores in the corners of the mouth - Angular CheilitisPatients with braces can develop angular cheilitis easier than patients without.  In some patients, due to the shape of their lips and position of their jaws and teeth, the braces will cause the salivary flow to change a little bit and keep the corners of the mouth wet.  This can increase their chances of this condition.  Fungus in the mouth, Candida Albicans, can invade small cracks in the corners of the mouth and start the infection.

Also, a tongue habit can cause angular cheilitis.  A patient that constantly licks the corners of their lips or any part of their lips can develop this infection.  A patient who constantly sucks their upper or lower lip can develop angular cheilitis.


What Can be Done About Angular Cheilitis?

If the patient has the habit of licking their lips or corners of their mouth and develops angular cheilitis, they just need to stop their habit and it is a very difficult habit to break.  A parent will need to closely watch their child and correct them when they see them licking their lips.   A reward system should be started where the child is rewarded at the end of the day if they have not been caught licking their lips.

If the angular cheilitis is due to anatomy of the mouth and the braces has caused changes in salivary flow, the infection will go away when the braces are removed.  This is a rare situation and does not happen often.  Usually an anti-fungal cream is prescribed and applied twice to the corners of the mouth daily.  This usually eliminates the infection.

Keep the area dry from saliva and moist with a small amount of lip balm or Vaseline.  Keeping it dry from saliva will decrease the fungus and bacterial counts in the wound.  The lip balm or Vaseline will create a slight barrier and promote the skin to heal.

Make sure that you are eating well balanced meals and taking vitamin supplements like vitamin C and a vitamin B complex.  This helps in the healing process.

Ask your family dentist or orthodontist if they think the infection is angular cheilitis and see if they will prescribe medicine.  Most angular cheilitis infections can be healed by placing an anti-fungal and/or anti-bacterial cream, twice daily, to the infected area.

If the infection persists over many months after treatment with medicine, your dentist or orthodontist may refer you to your family physician or a dermatologist for further evaluation.

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