A slimy sloughing on the inside of your mouth can be unnerving, but should you be concerned? What causes the skin to peel off? More importantly, which of those causes are dangerous?
Read on to learn if the peeling skin in your mouth is a danger sign or nothing to worry about.
13 Reasons the Skin Inside Your Mouth Is Peeling Off
1. You Have Suffered A Dental Injury
Anything that damages or irritates the skin in your mouth can cause peeling.
For example, impact injuries from contact sports or accidents might cause damage. It is also common for sharp or coarse foods to generate tiny cuts on the gums and cheeks during meals.
When these small wounds heal, the damaged, dead skin dries and peels off to make room for new skin.
The American Association of Endodontists recommends that you consult a doctor or a dentist if you experience any dental injury. Some injuries can only be detected by examining your mouth thoroughly.
2. You Have Burnt Your Mouth
Burned skin inside your mouth can peel off, especially if it blisters. Very few people have never burned themselves eating or drinking something too hot. Scalding food and drink may be the most common reason for the skin inside your mouth to peel.
Inflammation of the skin in your mouth can also cause peeling. Spicy and acidic foods like hot peppers and citrus can have a cumulative effect that causes peeling, too.
Finally, chemical burns can cause peeling. Certain medicines, such as aspirin, can burn the sensitive skin inside your mouth and cause peeling.
3. There Is Too Much Friction in Your Mouth
Whenever there is too much friction, the skin inside your mouth can begin to peel. Friction will cause the skin in your mouth to toughen, like a callous. This process is called oral keratosis.
When skin parts toughen, they are more likely to be caught and torn off by teeth or other objects.
Some of the most common sources of friction in the mouth are braces, rough fillings, or misaligned crowns. In addition, people who get new dental appliances may experience the skin on the inside of their mouth peeling.
Smokers may also experience keratosis on the roof of their mouth due to dryness and excessive heat.
4. You Have Morsicatio Buccarum
Morsicatio Buccarum is another name for chronic cheek biting or cheek chewing.
According to the TLC Foundation, someone may start biting their cheeks more vigorously to smoothen them after they find them rough.
Biting your cheeks may sound simple, but the Foundation connects it to the following:
- Isolation of the individual
- Emotional distress
- Co-occurrence of psychiatric disorder
- Shame and embarrassment
- Feelings of guilt
Everybody deals with stress differently. People who tense up and clench their teeth often bite the inside of their cheeks. Many people suffer from bruxism, grinding their teeth while sleeping.
This constant friction and abrasion causes callouses to develop and then peel off. People who bite their cheeks often notice the callouses forming in a line where their teeth come together.
If stress makes you grind your teeth, try to reduce your stress levels and avoid triggers.
5. Your Toothpaste Irritates Your Mouth
Many toothpaste brands use sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) to bind all the ingredients together. SLS is a foaming agent, which explains why some kinds of toothpaste foam more than others. SLS is a minor skin irritant, and some people have more sensitive skin in their mouths than others.
Check the ingredients and consider switching back if you experience peeling in your mouth after switching toothpaste brands.
6. You Are Allergic to Something
Allergic reactions are inflammatory and can kill skin cells, including those in your mouth. They can also dry out patches of skin and leave a scaly formation like a scab that can peel off. If a food allergy is causing peeling, you can avoid the food in question to prevent it. Antihistamines may work for mild allergies, too.
US Congress passed the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 (FALCPA). This law identified the following eight foods as major food allergens:
- Tree nuts
On April 23, 2021, the US has declared sesame as the 9th major food allergen.
Allergies to these foods are often quite severe and can be dangerous. Visit an allergist for testing if you think a food allergy is causing the skin in your mouth to peel.
7. Yeast Infection Is Causing Peeling
Yeast infections, popularly known as oral thrush, are common in babies and older adults. Those with weak immune systems are particularly susceptible to thrush. Moreover, certain undiagnosed diseases such as diabetes and autoimmune disorders may increase your chances of developing thrush.
Finally, strong antibiotics can kill off the bacteria in your mouth that prevents yeast growth, leaving you open to infection.
Oral thrush consists of raw, red patches on the skin covered by a slimy white residue. The residue can feel like peeling skin when it is wiped away. It can also cause the corners of the mouth to peel and crack.
Sometimes oral thrush develops on the inside of the cheeks, the roof of the mouth, and under dentures. Probiotics can help prevent it, but doctors often prescribe a steroid cream for chronic cases.
8. Autoimmune Disorders Can Affect Skin
Autoimmune disorders cause your body’s immune system to attack part of your own body. They are often difficult to diagnose, but they frequently affect the skin, including skin on the inside of the mouth.
For example, discoid lupus erythematosus (DLE) and rheumatic skin disease can cause peeling in the mouth. However, oral lichen planus is much more common.
The cause of oral lichen planus is unknown, and diagnosis requires a biopsy. It often flares up after consuming anti-inflammatory medicine. It causes pain, blisters, and marks inside the mouth. After blisters form and rupture, the dead skin inside the mouth may peel away. Severe cases may require prescription medication.
Oral lichen planus is a chronic condition that may take years to resolve.
9. You Have Stevens-Johnson Syndrome
Stevens-Johnson Syndrome is a serious and rare autoimmune disorder that causes very painful blistering, drying, and peeling. The most common body parts for breakouts are the chest and face, including the mouth. In addition, flu-like symptoms accompany Stevens-Johnson breakouts. The root cause of breakouts is unknown, but a common trigger is a medication or infection.
Stevens-Johnson Syndrome can be fatal, and outbreaks require immediate medical attention.
10. You Are Malnourished
Everyone needs a minimum of nutrients in their diet. The human body requires calories, vitamins, and minerals to maintain proper function. If your body does not consume what it needs over a long period, crucial functions may cease. Most importantly, healing and tissue replacement will slow down, including the skin inside your mouth. This alone can cause the skin inside the mouth to peel.
Malnutrition may be the result of many different conditions, including the following:
- Sufficient food is not available
- Body is not able to absorb available food
- Food does not have sufficient nutrition
- Available food is not the kind of food needed
- Poor appetite
- Poor eating habits
- Consumption of culturally recommended specific food
- Inherited metabolic defects.
Malnutrition also suppresses the immune system, allowing infections and diseases to run rampant. Malnourishment makes it more likely that any of the other reasons on this list will cause the inside of your mouth to peel.
11. Anti-Inflammatories Have Caused The Skin Of Your Mouth To Peel Off
According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, anti-inflammatories, like antibiotics, can cause your mouth’s skin to fall.
If your mouth sheds skin, it is advisable to let your doctor know what medications you are on, if any. You may have to discontinue that medicine to prevent further skin peeling.
Do not stop taking the medicine without consulting your doctor first.
12. You Are Undergoing Cancer Therapy
If you are receiving cancer treatments, the skin on different parts of your body may dry, peel and become itchy.
According to National Cancer Institute, some types of radiation therapies and chemotherapies can cause a severe and extensive rash in your mouth.
Keep the area clean. You may need special dressings for the affected spot.
13. You Have Oral Herpes
Oral herpes, also called herpes labialis, can be asymptomatic. It is an infection that can include blisters and ulcers in and around your mouth. It may start with a simple itching and burning sensation but can cause lifelong infection.
Herpes Simplex Virus, or HSV (Type-1), is behind this infection. According to World Health Organization, 3.7 billion people under 50 had oral herpes infection in their mouth or genital in 2016.
If you do not have a strong immune system in place, oral herpes can lead to brain and eye infections.
How to stop skin peeling inside the mouth
- Eat nutritious food
- Change toothpaste
- Change eating habits
- Get treatment for misaligned teeth
- Use a steroid cream prescribed by your doctor
- Stay away from food that causes you allergy
- Do not use dental appliances that do not fit your mouth
- Reduce stress
- Stop smoking
- Seek medical advice if you have burnt your mouth or suffered mouth trauma.
If your skin is peeling because of lichen planus, the American Academy of Dermatology Association suggests that you do the following:
- Quit smoking
- Do not consume alcohol
- See a dentist every 6 to 12 months
- Brush twice a day
- Floss daily
- Do not consume spicy foods, citrus fruits and juices
- Avoid crispy and salty food
- Avoid drinking coffee, tea, and cola
From rare autoimmune disorders to scalding hot food, many things can cause the inside of your mouth to peel. For the most part, anything that damages the skin and triggers the healing process can trigger it.
Luckily, most causes of peeling in the mouth are minor annoyances and are easily treatable. However, various infections and serious disorders that cause the skin in your mouth to peel require immediate attention.
- Drugbank. ‘Sodium lauryl sulfate.’
- Encyclopedia Britannica. ‘Malnutrition (Pathology).’
- N Lavanya, P Jayanthi, Umadevi K Rao, and K Ranganathan. ‘Oral lichen planus: An update on pathogenesis and treatment.’ J Oral Maxillofac Pathol. 2011 May-Aug; 15(2): 127–132.
- Johns Hopkins Medicine. ‘Lichen Planus.’
- Food and Drug Administration (FDA). ‘Food Allergies.’
- Healthline. ‘Antibiotics Can Kill Healthy Gut Bacteria: Here’s What to Eat to Counter That.’
- HealthLinkBC. ‘Mouth and Dental Injuries.’
- American Academy of Dermatology Association. ‘Lichen planus: Tips for managing.’
- Daniel Pérez-López, et al. Oral mucosal peeling related to dentifrices and mouthwashes: A systematic review. Medicina Oral, Patología Oral y Cirugía Bucal. 2019.
- When Skin Sloughs and Peels. Johns Hopkins Medicine.
- Skin and Nail Changes during Cancer Treatment. National Cancer Institute.
- Traumatic Dental Injuries. American Association of Endodontists (AAE).
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