Ask Our Calgary Dentist: The corner of my lip is cracking and painful. What could this be?

Have you ever experienced a scabbed, painful, crack in one or both corners of your lip?  If you have, you may have been suffering from a rather uncomfortable condition known as angular cheilitis.  Angular cheilitis can be caused by a variety of issues.  Luckily, this painful condition can usually be assessed and treated by our Calgary dentist or your physician.


What Is Angular Cheilitis?

Cracking at the corner of your lips, although not common, is a condition known as angular cheilitis.  Our Calgary dentist sees angular cheilitis occur in one or both corners of the mouth.  According to an article published by the Canadian Dental Association, it is more common for angular cheilitis to occur on both sides of the mouth.  Although it is often confused with a cold sore, angular cheilitis is not a cold sore and it is usually not viral in nature.  In fact, angular cheilitis is actually a candida or yeast growth.  Angular cheilitis can also lead to other types of infections, including bacterial infections such as staphylococcus aureus and/or Streptococcus (rare).  Angular cheilitis can be caused by several factors.  Sometimes, however, it is difficult for a dentist or physician to determine the cause of angular cheilitis.


What Are the Symptoms of Angular Cheilitis?

Sometimes angular cheilitis can resemble a cold sore, but angular cheilitis is not a cold sore.  Generally, the symptoms of angular cheilitis are quite noticeable and are easily diagnosed by our Calgary dentist.  Symptoms can include the following:

1.       A crack at the corner of the mouth.

2.       Inflammation around the area of the corner of the mouth.

3.       Bleeding from the crack in the corner of the mouth.

4.       Pain and burning in the area around the corner of the mouth.

5.       Scabbing around the crack in the corner of the mouth.

6.       Itching and burning around the corner of the mouth.


What Causes Angular Cheilitis?

Angular cheilitis is usually caused when the corners of the mouth stay moist for prolonged periods of time.  Licking your lips can make the condition worse.  There are certain risk factors which can make your more susceptible to angular cheilitis, and most people usually have at least one risk factor, although this is not always the case.  Common causes of angular cheilitis include the following:

1.       A dry mouth or lips.  A dry mouth or lips can cause you to lick your lips, thereby causing excess saliva to become trapped in the corners of your mouth.  When the excess saliva evaporates, it leaves the corners of your mouth dry and cracked, causing you to lick your lips, thereby starting and continuing the cycle of moisture being trapped in the corner of your mouth.  Once your lip is cracked, it can become a harbour for infection from yeast and bacteria.

2.       Denture wearing.  Sometimes ill-fitting dentures can cause difficulties with swallowing and excessive saliva, causing saliva to sit in the corners of your mouth.

3.       Nutritional Deficiencies.  Conditions such as anemia and certain vitamin deficiencies are thought to possibly cause or contribute to angular cheilitis.

4.       Diabetes.  Diabetes can weaken the immune system, leading to an increase incidence of infections, including yeast infections.

5.       Chemotherapy and Other Drugs. Any drug that weakens your immune system may make you more susceptible to angular cheilitis, including HIV drugs and chemotherapy drugs.

6.       Deep grooves in the corners of your mouth.  If you have deep grooves in the corner of your mouth which often develop with age (marionette lines), excess saliva and moisture can become trapped in the corners, leading to angular cheilitis.


How Will My Calgary Dentist Treat Angular Cheilitis?

Fortunately, angular cheilitis is relatively simple to treat.  Your Calgary dentist can prescribe an anti-fungal topical medication, as well a topical steroid cream.  Generally, a bout of angular cheilitis can clear up with two weeks of treatment with a prescription from our dental office.  To prevent additional episodes of angular cheilitis, here are some tips to consider:

1.       Don’t lick your lips!  Apply lip balm to your lips frequently to keep your lips moistened and to keep you from licking your lips.

2.       Get a new toothbrush.  As your toothbrush could be contaminated, as soon as treatment begins, use a new toothbrush.

3.       Improve your diet.  Talk to your physician about possible nutritional deficiencies.  Ask your physician whether you should add any vitamin supplements to your diet to address any possible nutritional deficiencies.

4.       Cosmetic facial fillers. Consider cosmetic facial fillers in the corners of mouth so that any excess saliva does not get trapped in the corners.

5.       See your physician.  If you have or suspect you may have any condition such as diabetes, it is important to discuss this condition with your physician to ensure that your diabetes is well-controlled, or, if you have not been diagnosed, to rule out any possibility of diabetes or any other health issue.


Angular cheilitis can be a very painful and bothersome condition.  In order to prevent any further infections and to ensure that the condition does not spread or become worse, it is important to obtain an assessment and treatment from your Calgary dentist.  If you think you may be suffering from angular cheilitis, please call our Calgary dentist, Dr. Dirk Thompson, D.D.S., at 403.283.4252.  As always, we’re here to help.


Please be advised that this blog post is for informational purposes only.  It is not to be taken or used as a substitute for dental, medical or other professional advice, treatment or diagnosis.  Always ask your dentist, physician or other healthcare professional for advice before altering your diet or healthcare routine.  Individual patient needs and oral healthcare concerns vary so please consult your dentist for more informtion about your specific dental health requirements.


Copyright: Dirk A. Thompson Professional Corporation operating as Advance Your Health Dental.  Dr. Dirk A. Thompson, D.D.S., is a general dentist in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.


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