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Inflammation of the corners of the mouth (angular cheilitis) begins with an itching and burning sensation in the corners of the mouth. The area also looks red (erythematous) and is moist and crusted. Painful cracks tend to develop in the area. Angular cheilitis is more frequent in orthodontic patients. Obesity, diabetes and dry mouth makes people more prone to inflammation. This is not caused by vitamin B deficiency, as is commonly believed.

Self-care

Wash the corners of the mouth with soap and water 2 to 4 times daily. The scabs are easier to remove if you apply a wet dressing to the inflamed area for 10 to 20 minutes before washing. For this you can use paper towels, pieces of old towels or sheets, or gauze. 

After washing the area, dry the corners of the mouth and apply hydrocortisone cream containing an agent to stop the growth of bacteria and yeasts. The cream can be purchased from pharmacies without a prescription. The corners of the mouth usually heal within 3 to 7 days.

When should I seek treatment?

If angular cheilitis persistis more than a week, keeps recurring or is unilateral, you should visit a doctor or a dentist within the next couple of weeks.

Among other things, the doctor will check whether you have an oral yeast infection (thrush) that should be treated. Yeast infections may sometimes also occur under dentures.

The choice of oral medication for yeast infections depends on the findings in your specific situation. The cracks may also be due to atopic dermatitis or another condition diagnosed and treated by your doctor. 

Information sources: The Finnish Medical Society Duodecim: Terveysportti, Lääkärin tietokanta database

FSHS General Practitioner / 9 September 2019