We all want to start the New Year off with a smile, but you might be embarrassed to show yours off if the corners of your lips are cracked. In addition to making you self-conscious about your mouth, having cracked corners can be uncomfortable. At our Houston dental practice, Dr. Craig Armstrong and the rest of our team want everyone to enjoy healthy, beautiful smiles! We’ve made it our mission to assist patients with all sorts of oral health concerns. We understand the importance of keeping your smile in top shape, and we’re here to answer any question you might have about your mouth. In the following blog, find out why the corners of your lips might be cracking and how we can help you remedy this.
Many people have cracked lip corners. According to Dr. Jacqueline C. Doley’s article on Dear Doctor, “Cracking in the corners of the mouth is a common condition that is frequently seen in both the offices of dermatologists and dentists. It is known as perleche or angular cheilitis (‘angular’—angles; ‘cheil’—lip; ‘it is’—inflammation). Perleche is derived from the French word, ‘lecher,’ meaning to lick.’” You may be suffering from this condition if:
- The outer edges of one or both sides of your mouth are chapped.
- You notice red, white, or yellow lines at the edges of your mouth, which may become more visible when you smile or open your mouth.
- Stretching your lips to speak, sip, eat, laugh, brush, floss, or perform other activities causes the corners of your lips to sting or appear open.
- Your lips are generally chapped, but this symptom worsens at the edges of your mouth.
- The corners of your lips feel very dry or even bleed when you open your mouth or smile too widely.
- You often feel the need to lick your lips, “either as a result of irritation or because of it,” as Dr. Doley explains.
If you are struggling with any of the above symptoms, it’s a good idea to come and see us for an examination. We can determine what might be the source of your cracked corners and provide treatments to help you overcome this.
There are many possible reasons the corners of your lips could crack. Some of the most likely sources include:
- Dehydration. Sometimes the simplest answers actually are the most accurate. Especially in dry, cold winter weather, it is important to make sure you drink enough water.
- A virus. In his piece, “Ask the doctor: Why do the sides of my mouth keep splitting?,” Dr. Martin Scurr writes: “If it’s only one side of the mouth that’s affected, the cause is likely to be herpes simplex virus…(On the lips, it’s known as a cold sore.)” Basically, if this virus is dormant in your system, whenever you’re ill, it will “recur at that spot” where it “has gained entry” initially.
- Drooling. In her Buzzfeed News article, “Here’s How to Deal With This Insanely Annoying Mouth Issue,” Caroline Kee describes: “it’s usually caused by an infection of fungi or yeast from excess saliva trapped in the cracked corners of mouth.” First, dehydration creates little grooves in your lip skin. Then, either by licking your lips too much or as you drool (usually in your sleep), “moisture builds up in a warm closed area [the crack]” and makes your split sides that much worse: “it’s easy for yeast and fungi to grow and lead to an infection,” as can “bacteria like staphylococcus.” These can “cause inflammation” and crack your lip corners even more.
- Vitamin deficiencies. Advice columnist, Alice, explains on Go Ask Alice that “B-vitamin deficiencies [or] iron-deficiency anemia” can cause angular cheilitis. Cracked Corners Mouth’s article, “How to clear up angular cheilitis” also suggests that vitamins A and C could be deficient.
- An allergic reaction. Your lips might be reacting to that new scented or flavored lip balm you’ve been using, or perhaps to a treatment you’ve been applying to your face. Alice notes that “even dental care/oral hygiene products, such as toothpaste” could be to blame, if your skin is intolerant to them.
- Denture dilemmas. Dr. Doley explains that failing to take out and clean your dentures often enough could cause “dryness and subsequent chronic yeast infections [to] develop.” This is called “denture stomatitis.” Similarly, if you’re missing teeth but have yet to restore them, this could be the source. Dr. Doley writes: “a lack of teeth, especially the back teeth that support the face, cheek, and lips, can lead to a bite collapse with the subsequent cracking or fissuring at the corners of the mouth.”
Many people with cracked lip corners can probably trace their condition to one of the above causes, but Dr. Armstrong can help you identify the source of your splitting mouth skin, even if it doesn’t fall into one of these categories.
Dr. Armstrong’s treatment approach will depend on the origin of your condition. First, he will assess your mouth and perform any necessary tests to provide a diagnosis. Then, we’ll create a customized treatment plan for you. Your remedy could be a medicated lip cream, if you suffer from a fungal infection, for example. We might also recommend you take certain vitamins, try to avoid potential allergens, and stay hydrated. If denture issues appear to be the source of your condition, we may fit you for a new partial or complete denture.
Are Your Lip Corners Cracked?
You don’t have to deal with this troublesome symptom any longer! Dr. Armstrong and the rest of our team can help you figure out why this is happening and assist you in fixing it. Contact our Houston dental practice today to learn more and schedule your next appointment!