Cracked corners around the mouth is a more common condition than most people realise. It’s medically referred to as angular cheilitis or perleche. Angular cheilitis is an infection, bacterial or fungal, characterised by inflammation around the corners of the mouth often due to excessive licking leading to irritation. This concern is further characterised by redness and cracking of the skin around the lips.
There are many possible causes for angular cheilitis and often these causes are associated with what is going on around the mouth or inside the mouth. I have listed some of the possible causes of angular cheilitis below which include:
A weakened immune system – bacteria and fungi are present everywhere and it is our immune system which keeps them in check. When the immune system is compromised, these micro-organisms can flourish especially if there is a cut or trauma around the mouth.
Chapped lips – lack of humidity in the air during the winter months is known to cause chapped lips. During summer months, over-exposure to the sun can also result in chapped lips. As a result of this, some people will habitually lick their lips further drying out skin and this results in cracks and fissures which the bacteria and fungi living on skin’s surface can enter through and cause infection.
Touching your lips with dirty fingers, chewing your fingernails and chewing on objects such as pens which carry germs certainly opens you up to infection around the mouth.
Stress can have an effect on your immune system which can for some people lead to angular cheilitis.
Nutrient deficiencies do not directly result in angular cheilitis however having vitamin and mineral deficiencies can have a major impact on the immune system leaving us open to infection.
A lack of essential fatty acids, particularly omega 7, in our diet is linked to all dry skin concerns since these help restore skin’s natural oils. Dry skin is more prone to cracks leaving skin open to infection.
Younger adults who drool in their sleep or have orthodontic braces are more prone to suffering from angular cheilitis.
If you wear dentures, there is always a possibility of these causing inflammation of the tissues underneath. It is therefore best to ensure that dentures are removed and cleaned regularly. A lack of teeth can cause bite collapse with subsequent cracking or fissuring of the soft tissues around the mouth.
Certain diseases may increase the probability of angular cheilitis such as diabetes.
Treating cracked corners and angular cheilitis
Although there may be several causes for cracked corners, treating angular cheilitis properly may help heal skin very quickly since the mouth is one the fastest healing part of the body.
Because angular cheilitis may be associated with a bacterial or fungal infection, I tend to recommend as topical lip balm called Lysine Lip Therape with Monolaurin by Life-Flo to be applied to lips and to the dry corners of the mouth several times daily. Normally used for preventing and treating cold sores, this emollient lip balm contains lysine, an amino acid with anti-viral and antimicrobial properties. Monolaurin, derived from coconuts, is a potent antibacterial and antifungal agent helping to eradicate numerous bacterial and fungal species including candida, the most common infective organism of angular cheilitis.
If the infection arises from within the mouth, then it is likely to recur if only the corners of the mouth are treated with emollient lip balms. It is for this reason that I believe it is simply safer to use a good antimicrobial mouthwash such as Peri Gum Mouthwash Concentrate. This oral rinse contains seven herbal extracts with varying properties including antiseptic, antimicrobial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, tissue healing and enhancing circulation.
Consider the use of a good omega 7 supplement such as PharmaNord’s Omega 7 Sea Buckthorn Oil capsules to restore lipids within skin and hence heal any dry lips and cracked lips.
It might be prudent to visit your dentist who can verify that gums tissues are healthy, oral hygiene is good and that gums are healthy and not infected.