Why is the inside of your mouth peeling?

Worried about your mouth peeling? Small localised areas of peeling of the oral mucosa are very common and usually resolve within a few days.

Dr Bill Schaeffer looks at oral mouth peeling
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Anxious about peeling skin on the inside of your mouth? The lining of the mouth can be neglected professionally, with the GP leaving it to the dentist and the dentist leaving it to the GP.

Fortunately help is at hand. Implant Surgeon, Specialist Oral Surgeon and Co-founder of The Implant Centre Dr Bill Schaeffer gets to the bottom of oral skin peeling:

Is it normal for your mouth to peel?

The skin on the inside of the mouth is called the Oral Mucosa. It works as a tough flexible barrier, preventing food from penetrating the mucosa while still being flexible enough to allow for the wide range of movements involved in eating and speaking.

Small localised areas of peeling of the oral mucosa are very common and resolve within a few days. More widespread or longer-lasting peeling of the oral mucosa should be checked out by your dentist or doctor.

What might cause mouth skin to peel?

A number of things can cause the skin in your mouth to peel, but the most common causes include the following:

• Thermal burn

The most common cause of peeling of the oral mucosa is a burn after eating food that is too hot.

• Chemical burn

In a similar way to a thermal burn, chemical burns can cause the skin to peel. We sometimes see this if a patient has let an aspirin dissolve against the gum to try and relieve a toothache. These are both localised areas of peeling.

• Autoimmune disorders

More rarely, some autoimmune disorders can cause the oral mucosa to peel in a more widespread pattern, sometimes dramatically so.



Oral skin peeling treatment

Treatment for the skin in your mouth peeling will obviously depend on the cause. The simple causes like thermal or chemical burns should resolve fully after a week or so.

The autoimmune disorders require an accurate diagnosis to be made and then specialist treatment can be started.

If the skin peeling is widespread - you must seek treatment for this from your doctor or dentist.



Do you have Stevens-Johnson syndrome?

Stevens-Johnson syndrome is a rare, serious disorder of your skin and mucous membranes. It's usually a reaction to a medication or an infection.

Often, it begins with flu-like symptoms, followed by a painful red or purplish rash that usually affects the mouth and lips but can be more widespread. This then spreads and blisters. Then the top layer of the affected skin dies, sheds and finally heals.

Stevens-Johnson syndrome is a medical emergency that usually requires hospitalisation so you would definitely know something was seriously wrong if you had it.

Could it be oral keratosis?

Oral keratosis is a thickening of the keratin layer of the oral mucosa. Because the oral mucosa is always wet, this results in a slightly raised white patch.

The most common site that this is seen is in the palate of smokers where the hot irritant smoke causes the skin covering the palate to lay down a thicker layer of keratin in an attempt to protect itself.



Should you see your GP about skin peeling?

Localised burns are easy for a patient to diagnose themselves and resolve fully after only a week or so. More widespread peeling of the mouth must be checked out by a dentist or a medical doctor.

If any patient has an ulcer in their mouth that takes longer than two weeks to fully resolve, then they should see their dentist to get it checked out as soon as possible.

You should visit a doctor if you are worried about any symptoms in your mouth that have not resolved after two weeks, though it may well be that your dentist will be more familiar than your doctor with conditions that can affect the mouth.



Last updated: 08-10-19

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