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What Causes My Mouth to Shed Skin?

Tricia Christensen
By
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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There are many different conditions that can cause the mouth to shed skin, ranging from the fairly harmless to the very dangerous. If you are experiencing this problem as a result of burns or irritation, it can usually be easily identified and reversed. Damage to the mouth lining due to an allergic reaction or disease may need more intensive attention, however. The required treatment can vary, depending on the primary cause, and you should see a dental or medical professional if the condition lasts for more than a few days.

Burns

One of the most common reasons for the skin in the mouth to shed or peel is because of a burn, which can happen if you eat hot food or beverages. Many people have experienced the pain of taking a big bite of hot pizza that immediately burns the roof of the mouth, eventually causing the top layer of skin to peel away. Eating spicy foods, like peppers that contain the organic compound capsaicin, can have the same effect. Even traditional ingredients associated with desserts, like cinnamon, can cause a burning sensation and damage the very delicate skin.

Irritations

Repetitive biting and chewing on hard objects can also cause tissue damage. People who chew on pens, toothpicks, or other similar objects may develop small cuts in the mouth, which may then peel as they heal. Similar damage might be done by breath mints, lozenges, or vitamins that you chew or suck on. This can be made worse if you don't have enough saliva in the mouth to break these items down. When possible, it may be better to take medications in pill form, coated to allow them to be swallowed easily to reduce the chance of irritation.

If you brush your teeth too often or vigorously, you may be causing your mouth to shed skin. The damage can be made worse if you use a hard-bristled toothbrush and if your toothpaste is particularly strong or abrasive. Consider buying a soft-bristled toothbrush, investing in toothpaste for sensitive teeth, and learning gentle and proper brushing techniques. Avoid products with abrasive ingredients like sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), alcohol, or volatile oils. Those who suffer from celiac disease may be especially sensitive to brushing irritation and should use gluten-free oral hygiene products.

Allergic Reactions

Some medications can cause a reaction in the body that leads to the mouth shedding skin. If you're taking antibiotics, for example, you might develop a yeast infection in your mouth called thrush, which is characterized by small white patches that may damage the skin. Allergic reactions to over-the-counter drugs may also be a problem. Powdered aspirin formulas or agents that contain phenol can damage the tissue as well.

A food allergies can also cause sores to develop in the mouth. This reaction is especially common in people who are allergic to things like chocolate, nuts, strawberries, and tropical fruits that are very acidic. Avoiding those items that cause the reaction is usually the best way to deal with the problem, although it may take some experimentation to figure out which foods trigger the sores.

Medical Conditions

There are several other conditions that can cause mouth ulcerations, including some sexually transmitted diseases and certain viruses, like chicken pox. Canker sores can also cause the skin to shed. Typically, shedding will stop when the disease that's causing the ulcers goes into remission.

Problems with the skin in the mouth may also indicate that you have certain autoimmune conditions. Pemphigus vulgaris, for instance, may result in mild to moderately painful blisters, which can affect the tongue and gums, as well as the mouth's walls. Other diseases that affect the immune system may also create conditions that cause oral skin lesions. This is true of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), as well as other disorders.

Certain forms of mouth cancer can cause the skin to peel, especially if you develop lesions in the oral cavity. Radiation treatments can also result in mouth sores or ulcerations. This is a fairly common side effect with cancer patients, but it should be mentioned to your oncologist so that he or she can evaluate the treatment's effectiveness.

Treatment

The type of treatment required to stop the skin in your mouth from shedding often largely depends on what's causing the problem. A minor burn may heal on its own after three or four days, while damage caused by immune disorders may require that the underlying diseases be treated before you experience any relief. You might need to change your personal habits; for example, if you find that overusing breath mints is causing the problem, you could switch to chewing a soft gum instead. If you're experiencing any shedding or peeling without an obvious cause, your mouth should be evaluated by a healthcare professional, such as an oral pathologist or surgeon, especially if you smoke or chew tobacco.

Roof of Mouth Peeling From Hot Food

The delicate skin on the roof of your mouth can easily get burned from consuming something a little too hot. If you have burned your mouth, especially the roof, you will first want to find some relief by cooling it down. Sipping a cold beverage or sucking on a popsicle can take away the initial sting associated with the burn. As your mouth recovers, it is smart to avoid possible irritants like overly spicy or rough-textured foods.

If your mouth still hasn't healed within a week, your burn may be more severe and in need of treatment by a doctor. Pockets of pus and blistering can be indicative of an infection, at which point you will need a course of antibiotics before you will begin to see relief.

Does Skin Peel After Hand Foot and Mouth?

Hand, foot, and mouth disease is often characterized by small blisters that begin in the mouth on the tongue or gums and then spread outward to other parts of the body. After the onset of symptoms, the blisters may become very painful, with the skin eventually peeling away. However, not everyone that becomes infected will experience these symptoms.

When suffering from sores in the mouth, it may be too painful to eat or drink. As with any blister, you should not pop them, and wait for them to heal on their own. During this time, cold liquids and bland foods are the best options to avoid pain and accelerate the healing process.

The contagious disease is most often found in children under the age of 10, but it can infect anyone regardless of age. If someone in your family or circle of contact has become infected, you will want to ensure you are practicing good hygiene and performing frequent disinfectant sessions.

Listerine Peeling Skin Mouth

If your skin has begun to peel after switching to a new mouthwash, like Listerine, you may be prone to irritation from the chemicals in the wash. Some alcohols can be overpowering and cause the sensitive tissue in the mouth to die, resulting in it peeling away from the lining of your cheeks. If you are experiencing irritation from Listerine or any other oral rinse, you can try diluting it with water and assessing if the situation improves. If diluting it doesn't stop the irritation, discontinue your use and ask your dentist for a recommendation.

Oral Thrush

Another common cause of peeling skin in the mouth includes oral thrush, an overgrowth of fungus that results in thick white patches throughout the mouth. People may also experience a loss of taste and a burning sensation while swallowing. Oral thrush is common in babies and people that are immunocompromised, so it is important to be able to recognize the signs of thrush in the event that you have to identify it for someone else. It can be easily cleared up with a treatment course of antifungal medication. It can be prevented through good dental practices and diligent oral care.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen , Writer
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.

Discussion Comments

By anon995387 — On Apr 24, 2016

Dear anon 267669 Post 14: Thank you for your information. I have had problems in my mouth for the last few years and it gets pretty discouraging when you can't get help. I will research kelp for myself and see what I need to do. Thank you Linda from Idaho

By anon994456 — On Feb 10, 2016

I'm betting it's your toothpaste. Are you using Crest Pro Health, or another product containing "tartar control" chemicals such as sodium hexametaphosphate?

By anon969555 — On Sep 11, 2014

I have been suffering from this for three years. The doctors can't find anything. The closest they came is B-12 deficiency (since my B12 was low they assumed it). I think this happens to me when I have a cold. This time I took antibiotics and it happened.

By anon326073 — On Mar 19, 2013

I had the problem of waking up with a skin like film in my mouth. For me, it was caused by acid reflux. The acid in my mouth was reacting with the skin in my mouth.

I did not have typical symptoms - in fact I didn't have any at all for a long time, except dry mouth and the film.

Finally, I started getting really bad chest pains. Once the acid reflux was taken care of, the mouth problem went away. It's something to check out, because acid reflux can really eat your teeth up as well.

By anon304822 — On Nov 21, 2012

It's happening right now on my chewing side, and I know it's because of a chemical, or at least an excessive amount of it, that is in some cracker seasonings. I'm not sure what it is, but figure this because every so often I'll buy a flavor I haven't had in a chip/cracker product and it will happen to me.

By anon274190 — On Jun 10, 2012

I've found it happens when using certain toothpastes, usually the kind which profess to kill bacteria, or suppress bad breath for an extended period. It's not a big problem, but at least, reading these comments, I know I'm not alone.

By anon270195 — On May 21, 2012

I have experienced peeling in my mouth for a year or two. Recently it increased and I experienced pain on the upper surface of my tongue. I had been using a whitening toothpaste. Upon stopping, the peeling reduced but the sore tongue remains. I won't be using whitening toothpastes again and will continue to search for relief from sore tongue.

By anon267669 — On May 10, 2012

I am responding to this question in hopes of helping my fellow sufferers of this condition. I have dealt with this problem for the better part of my life (about 30 years) until about two months ago. Doctors, dentists, internists, allergists are all clueless about it. Believe me, I've tried them all. And no, it is not yeast. I tried two consecutive prescriptions of a very strong medication to kill yeast and it didn't even touch it.

I am an avid believer in natural remedies, so I do lots of research about herbs and vitamins. Recently, I read some information about kelp and how it can help to balance your thyroid. Since I've had a problem losing weight for the last two years, I figured why not give it a shot. I'm thinking I've had an undiagnosed thyroid issue all these years because the skin sloughing in my mouth has disappeared. The inside of my lips and up my cheeks were a mess and it was embarrassing that I was constantly chewing my lips or cheeks, but I couldn't stand how it felt. To make matters worse, my mouth was so dry all the time. Not only have I begun to lose weight, but this condition has subsided.

I had a thyroid test and it revealed 3.0, which is the highest ratio of the new range being used by endocrinologists. The old range was from .5 to 5.0, which is why thyroid issues are one of the most under diagnosed problems in the country. I truly hope this information helps someone else out there because I can't even express how good it feels not to have to contort my face to bite a piece of loose skin from cheek. --Nance, Charleston, SC

By anon265960 — On May 03, 2012

It's most likely caused by dehydration which causes dry mouth which lowers the defense against bacteria.

By amypollick — On Apr 20, 2012

@anon262703: If the sores heal up in about a week, then come back several weeks later, maybe in a slightly different spot, you may have mouth ulcers. These can be caused by a lot of different things, but mine tend to be caused by my toothpaste.

Try using either Rembrandt for canker sores, or another toothpaste that doesn't have sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) in it. I can't use gel toothpaste at all. Right now, I'm using the Arm & Hammer Baking Soda and Peroxide toothpaste and I haven't had problems in a while. Sensitivity to ingredients in toothpaste can definitely cause mouth ulcers. Also, try to increase your Vitamin C intake.

By anon262703 — On Apr 20, 2012

I have a really weird thing happening around the teeth on opposite sides of my mouth. I have a red sore peeling. It really hurts when I try to eat. Does anyone have idea what this could be?

By anon254594 — On Mar 13, 2012

I have found out that this happens to me after eating spinach, broccoli and soy. Could I be allergic to these?

By anon226394 — On Oct 31, 2011

Somehow I have the flu and can't breathe through my nose too much, so what happens is that when I sleep, I leave my mouth open unexpectedly. Then when I wake up, I feel a lot of dryness in my mouth and it extends from my outer lips to the inside parts. When I washed them, it seemed dark skin. I am just worried what this might mean.

By anon163935 — On Mar 29, 2011

Oh, good. I was so worried. All of a sudden, I was walking to class today, and this weird taste was in my mouth, then all this paper looking stuff came out off my tongue.

By anon106228 — On Aug 24, 2010

Whew! Thank goodness I found this. Today in my math class, all of the sudden all of this skin came from my mouth. I thought there was something wrong. But after reading this, I remembered that I've been using mouth wash more frequently and have been swishing it in my mouth for longer than 30 seconds. That may be why that it happened.

By anon102716 — On Aug 09, 2010

I have had chronic skin sloughing in my mouth for over five years. Recently, I took a week's worth of Bactrim for a UTI and by day five, the skin on the inside of my mouth was smooth and normal for the first time in years. Could it have been an infection?

By lightning88 — On Jul 24, 2010

Many people's tongues shed skin periodically too.

It's usually not a problem, but if it happens repeatedly, or you start getting a fever, abdominal pain, or swollen glands in addition to your tongue shedding skin, you should consult your doctor.

It's rare, but a tongue shedding skin can be a sign of autoimmune disorders.

By wecallherana — On Jul 24, 2010

@EarlyForest - In regards to whitening products, you have to think about the chemicals that are involved in the actual aspect. While some kits contain a means of peroxide bleach, there are other active chemicals and ingredients that might affect you. Although, you might definitely have something when it comes to sensitivity.

By WalrusTusk — On Jul 24, 2010

@pharmchick - The theory you have here might not be very clear to some people. I read your explanation and thought, "What about hard drinkers?" I think you mean that the mouth washes that are literally harsh to the balance in your mouth contain ethanol. Isopropyl alcohol would be just awful to drink and other alcohols like hard liquor would just make it a party mouth wash.

By EarlyForest — On Jul 24, 2010

I've heard that a lot of whitening products can cause the skin in your mouth to shed too.

I don't know if that's just because people have sensitivities to the bleach, or if they make the mouth too dry or what, but apparently a lot of people have a problem with it.

By pharmchick78 — On Jul 24, 2010

Some overly-harsh mouthwashes can cause skin to shed from the inside of the mouth too.

The worst culprits are the ones that are alcohol-based, like the old Listerine.

Using so much of an alcohol-based substance in your mouth can cause the skin to dry out, thus making it shed, just like how other parts of the body peel when they get too dry.

Tricia Christensen

Tricia Christensen

Writer

With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia...
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