You have a cracked corner of the mouth when you notice the corner of your mouth is dry, chapped, split or inflamed. You may notice swollen red sores at your lip corner. Sometimes it may bleed and become very painful.
What causes a cracked corner of the mouth?
A cracked corner of the mouth may result from environmental conditions such as cold weather, sunburn and wind exposure. Personal habits such as licking your lips, wearing a face mask or sucking your thumb can also cause cracked lip corners.
Several conditions may give rise to a cracked corner of the mouth. However, the chief cause of a cracked corner of the mouth is angular cheilitis. Angular cheilitis is not severe and can be resolved with lifestyle changes and home remedies.
In rare cases, cracked corner of the mouth can be caused by more severe conditions such as; Cold sores, Actinic ketosis, Leukoplakia, Oral cancer, Oral lichen plants, Syphilis and Herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1)
This article will be restricted to a cracked corner of the lips caused by angular cheilitis. It will extensively discuss the causes, symptoms, treatments, and prevention of angular cheilitis.
What is Angular cheilitis?
Angular cheilitis, known as perleche, is a skin disorder that may affect one or both corners of the mouth. Angular cheilitis occurs due to dry lip corners which eventually split. Angular cheilitis may affect one or both corners of the lips. It is characterised by symptoms such as;
Angular cheilitis is not contagious. Cracked corners of the mouth can be contagious if cold sores and not angular cheilitis cause it. A virus or bacterial infection causes cold sores. It has symptoms similar to angular cheilitis and can be contagious by sharing eating utensils like a spoon, sharing drinks or kissing.
Causes of angular cheilitis
The primary cause of angular cheilitis is dryness of the lip corner caused by saliva deposit. If saliva deposits at the corner of your lip due to lifestyle habits or other conditions, your lip corners are prone to dryness. Angular cheilitis sets in when these dry lip corners split or crack open.
The situation may worsen if the broken lip corner is left damp when you try to soothe the pain from the split by licking it or adding balm. The dampness can create a perfect breeding ground for bacteria and fungi which may cause infection. Sometimes, such an infection may extend to the lips or skin if not treated early.
Children who suck their thumbs, use pacifiers or drool are at higher risk of angular cheilitis. Older people who have sagging lip corners that may emit saliva are also at more risk.
Aside from the above, research has found other specific causes of angular cheilitis, which include;
Mineral and dietary deficiency
Research search confirmed that 25% of Angular cheilitis cases are linked with mineral deficiency. Vitamin B deficiency, especially folate and riboflavin, can trigger angular cheilitis. General protein and trace mineral deficiencies can also give rise to this condition.
Atopic eczema or dermatitis
One of the most common causes of angular cheilitis is atopic dermatitis or allergy. Nickel in orthodontic braces, flavouring in tooth tastes and mouthwashes, sunscreen components in expired lip balms and preservatives in lip cosmetics can all give rise to allergic reactions that can give rise to atopic dermatitis.
Poorly fitting dentures
Improperly fitted dentures can irritate the gums and the mouth’s soft tissues through mechanical rubbing. Long-term exposure to this irritant can result in angular cheilitis, an inflammation at the corner of the mouth.
Microorganism overgrowth and Underlying diseases
Certain microorganisms and diseases may expose you to the risk of angular cheilitis. Candida is the most common microorganism that causes angular cheilitis. However, it is a normal organism that lives in the mouth in fungus form.
Poor oral hygiene can lead to candida overgrowth and consequently lead to oral thrush or angular cheilitis. Diabetes can increase the glucose level in the saliva and lead to candida overgrowth in the mouth. HIV/AIDS may decrease body immunity and give room for infections.
A sleep disorder characterised by excessive drooling
A common reason for drooling is an accumulation of saliva in the mouth. An increase in saliva production can be a symptom of some medical disorders, such as acid reflux or pregnancy. Angular cheilitis can develop at the mouth’s corner if drooling is persistent.
Poor dental alignment
Malocclusion is the medical word for improperly positioned teeth. One of the most common reasons for angular cheilitis is teeth or jaws that are not correctly aligned. Because of the misalignment, there are spaces in the mouth where saliva can easily enter and go to the mouth’s corner.
How to treat angular cheilitis
Angular cheilitis therapy is dependent on the underlying cause. When angular cheilitis has an underlying cause like Diabetes or HIV/AIDS. It is best to treat the diseases first.
Possible treatments for Angular cheilitis include :
Antibiotics: Bacterial infections can be treated with medicines applied to the skin or taken orally.
Oral surgery: It’s essential to have a snug fit for any dental prosthetics or other oral hardware. Brackets, wires, and bands can realign teeth and correct bite problems.
Dietary modifications: Lack of nutrition or an unhealthy diet can lead to various health issues, many of which can be remedied by eating meals high in protein, iron, and B vitamins.
Lotions and potions: Cracked corners of the mouth cause swelling and pain, although antifungal treatments and topical steroids alleviate these symptoms. Protect your lips and gums from drying out with some lip balm or petroleum jelly.
How to prevent cracked corner of the mouth (angular cheilitis)
It’s not always possible to prevent the triggers that result in angular cheilitis. However, you can lessen the danger by:
- Avoid using tobacco in any form.
- Avoiding products that could cause an allergic reaction or skin irritation.
- Keep your mouth closed and not licking your lips.
- Maintaining suppleness of the lip membranes.
- Adopting a balanced diet and consuming plenty of water.
- Using no cosmetics that have already expired.
Applying petroleum jelly or coconut oil to the inside of your mouth’s corners will help prevent saliva from getting in. In addition, protecting your lips with lip balm daily might help reduce the risk of developing chapped skin.
The use of 1% hydrocortisone lotion or clotrimazole is a choice that may be found at most drug stores. However, you might begin treatment by rubbing coconut oil or lip balm into the affected area. If it doesn’t help, a dermatologist can prescribe a triamcinolone ointment and nystatin.
To treat the soreness at the corner of the mouth, lip balms and moisturisers should have an unscented and unflavored formula. For example, you might use petroleum jelly or virgin coconut oil. Also, apply a slice of cucumber to the painful spot and gently rub it to reduce the soreness.
The best home remedy for healing cracked lips corners at home is coconut oil or petroleum jelly to the corners of your mouth since these substances can act as a barrier against saliva.
The best way to heal cracked lip corners fast is by seeing a dermatologist as soon as you notice the signs. However, you may also opt for home remedies.
Your doctor may recommend an antifungal medicine for topical application to the infected area of your mouth if a yeast infection is to blame for your angular cheilitis. Your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic ointment or lotion if they determine that a bacterial infection is to blame.
Yes, Vaseline helps angular cheilitis. When applied topically, Vaseline may also help ease the pain of angular cheilitis. Putting petroleum jelly or lip balm on the sores is one example of preventing dryness and retaining moisture.