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Mouth Diseases

Lower lip problem

04/13/2005

Question:

Hello Doctor(s), I have been a vegetarian since I was born and eat health food all the time. I seldom go out in the sun. I live in Singapore. I have a lower lip problem. The skin of my lower lip keeps peeling off. It is very uncomfortable and embarrassing. I would appreciate it if you could advise me on how this problem can be solved. I look forward to your reply. Thank you.

Answer:

The fancy term for the problem you are describing is exfoliative cheilitis.  Although there are many things that can cause this problem, the most common is constant wetting or licking of the lip or lips.  Another common reason for this problem to develop is overuse of lip balms or vaseline.  Constant use of these agents keep the lip too moist (it actually is supposed to be slightly dry) and allows bacteria to grow.  This infection and irritation causes the lip to peel.

Initially, I would recommend you try application of an antibacterial ointment, such as Neosporin.  Only apply this in a thin layer 2 or 3 times a day.  Otherwise, try to keep the lip dry.  If you do not notice improvement within a week, seek the advice of your dentist or physician.  If possible, a consult with an oral and maxillofacial pathologist would also be advisable.

Good luck!

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Response by:

John R Kalmar, DMD, PhD John R Kalmar, DMD, PhD
Clinical Professor of Pathology
College of Dentistry
The Ohio State University