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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.