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Angular Cheilitis

Angular cheilitis, also known as perleche, causes redness and inflammation to develop at the corners of the mouth, usually on both sides. It is often the direct result of an accumulation of saliva that creates an ideal environment for fungus or, more rarely, bacteria to grow.

Angular cheilitis is usually characterized by fissures, redness and crusting at the corners of the mouth and surrounding skin. Individuals may experience itching, irritation and a burning sensation.

Causes and triggers

Angular cheilitis affects people of all ages. However, older individuals who wear dentures are at an increased risk of developing this type of inflammation. In children, the most common causes are excess saliva, thumb sucking and frequent lip licking.

There are several potential causes of angular cheilitis:

  • Dental appliances such as retainers or braces
  • Excessively worn teeth or poorly fitting dentures that cause the jaw to be misaligned, increasing the folds at the corners of the mouth
  • Dry mouth
  • Oral yeast infection
  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Use of medications that cause dry mouth
  • Nutritional deficiencies (e.g., iron, vitamin B)
  • Health issues such as type 2 diabetes or immune disorders
  • Treatment

    See your healthcare professional to determine the exact cause of the inflammation and for proper treatment.

    Start by addressing the underlying contributing factors. Below are some recommendations:

    • See a dentist for appropriate care (e.g., denture adjustment)
    • Avoid licking or rubbing the corners of your mouth
    • Change your toothbrush if you have an infection
    • Adopt good oral hygiene practices
    • Maintain good denture hygiene

    Then, if there is an infection, a cream, most often an antifungal (e.g., Canesten) or more rarely an antibacterial (e.g., Bactroban), can be applied to the affected area. Depending on the situation, treatment involving oral tablets may be deemed more appropriate.

    At all times, and more specifically once the sores have healed, the use of a barrier cream (e.g., Prevex) or Vaseline can help protect the skin from moisture and prevent the recurrence of sores.

    When should I see a healthcare professional?

    If there is no improvement after two weeks of treatment, your healthcare professional should re-evaluate the diagnosis and switch treatments, if necessary.

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