Cheilosis, also referred to as cheilitis, is an inflammation at one or both corners of the mouth that can lead to deep cracking and infection. Severe cases are characterised by bleeding, ulcers and crusting. Infection commonly is caused by a yeast (fungal) infection from Candida albicans. This yeast thrives in moisture that can collect at the mouth corners, often in elderly people with poorly-fitting dentures or in individuals who drool during sleep. Infection also can be caused by bacteria. Some home remedies can alleviate minor cases of cheilosis, but if they don't work, you'll need to see your doctor.
Pay attention to how often you lick your lips or the corners of your mouth, or if you have a habit of rubbing the corners of your mouth with your tongue or your fingers. Continued moistness there can lead to infection. If you lick your lips because they are dry, apply a lip balm regularly. Don't use lip balm in your mouth corners if there appears to be an infection because you may spread it further.
If you wear dentures, take note of how well they fit. Poorly-fitting dentures can make one part of the mouth overlap another, creating continuous moisture in the lip corner and even drooling. If your dentures do not fit well, you need to visit your dentist. If they do fit well, you may need to clean them more often and more thoroughly to prevent yeast and bacteria from growing.
Bacterial or Fungal Infection
To eliminate a potential minor bacterial infection, dip a cotton swab in rubbing alcohol and disinfect the sore areas. Use the other side of the swab if you need to treat both sides of your mouth; do not re-dip the same side of the swab. Then apply an over-the-counter antibacterial cream or gel to the corner or corners of your mouth. Repeat this process three or four more times throughout the day. If the infection is bacterial, it should clear up within a few days. If not, it may be a yeast infection. An over-the-counter topical anti-fungal cream or gel may eliminate this type of infection. These products are mainly designed for athlete's foot, but they kill the fungus associated with cheilosis. You must be sure not to get any of the rubbing alcohol, antibacterial or anti-fungal product in your mouth, and not to lick your lips while wearing it.
If the problem area does not clear up, you might need to take oral antibiotics or oral anti-fungal medicine, or you may need a stronger topical anti-fungal available by prescription only. These all require a trip to the doctor.