Why Do I Have a Rash in My Mouth?


It’s probably never good to have a “rash” of anything in your life except maybe bacon, and even in that context, your cardiologist might want to have a word of culinary caution with you.

While bacon at breakfast may leave a good taste in most mouths, looking in the mirror in the morning and finding a rash in your mouth is certain to have the opposite effect.

And let’s face it, with the COVID-19 pandemic over the past two years, most of us have had enough anxiety for a lifetime so we do not need to be wondering … “Why do I have a rash in my mouth?”

The good news is that most rashes in your mouth are caused by irritants such as poorly fitting dentures, dental devices such as braces and retainers, sharp or broken teeth, tobacco products, or even damage from hot food or beverages.

Pinpointing the Cause of Your Mouth Irritation

It’s often not easy to pinpoint the cause of mouth irritation because, in addition to what was mentioned above, there are many other causes of mouth sores or rashes, including:

  • Use of fluoride toothpaste
  • Use of topical steroids around the mouth area
  • Certain chewing gums
  • Highly acidic foods
  • Use of other medications such as beta-blockers
  • Vitamin and folate deficiencies

Women can be even more susceptible to mouth rashes than men with hormonal changes during pregnancy causing them.

Another thing that can cause a rash in your mouth: Stress!

This, of course, can be a destructive circle because the discovery of a rash in your mouth can often lead to more stress.

Could My Mouth Rash be a Sign of COVID-19?

Speaking of stress, during the pandemic it has become a habit to associate any unusual symptoms with the possibility of the onset of the COVID-19 virus.

And some have attributed mouth rash as another in a long line of COVID-19 symptoms.

“While rashes on the skin have long been tied to COVID-19, doctors in Spain report that rashes on the inside of the mouth are also occurring in some cases,” reported Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

The rashes in the case of coronavirus are known as enanthem.

“An enanthem is a rash [small spots] on the mucous membranes," explained Dr. Michele Green, who practices at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, to Health Day News. "It is very common in patients with viral infections like chickenpox and hand, foot, and mouth disease. It is characteristic of many viral rashes to affect mucous membranes."

The Spanish study looked at 666 patients with COVID-19 and found almost half (304) had mucocutaneous manifestations (visual markers in assessing a viral infection) including 25.7 percent (78 cases) with some sort of rash in their oral cavity or mouth.

According to Brigham and Women’s Hospital “the mouth rash appeared anywhere from two days before the onset of other COVID symptoms to 24 days after, with an average time of about 12 days after onset of symptoms.”

Other Medical Conditions That Can Cause a Rash in Your Mouth

COVID-19 is not the only medical condition that can cause a rash or sores in your mouth.

According to Medical News Today, diseases and medical conditions that can cause mouth sores to include:

  • Autoimmune diseases:  May cause mouth sores to form.
  • Candidiasis (oral thrush): A fungal infection that causes white and red patches to appear in the mouth.
  • Chronic canker sores: They have a red, flat edge and white or greyish patches surrounding them.
  • Erythroplakia: Red patch that appears on the floor of the mouth and can be cancerous or precancerous.
  • Gingivostomatitis: Common infection prevalent in children. The sores are like canker sores, but they occur alongside symptoms of a cold or the flu.
  • Hand, foot, and mouth disease: Causes small, painful red patches to appear on these parts of the body. It is most common in children.
  • Herpes simplex: Causes cold sores on the mouth and can also produce genital sores
  • Leukoplakia: Causes white-grey patches to appear nearly anywhere in the mouth.
  • Lichen planus: Chronic condition that causes an itchy, inflammatory rash in the mouth or on the skin.
  • Oral cancer:  Causes sores and lesions in the mouth.

“When in doubt, you can be examined by your dentist, doctor, or oral surgeon. They may perform a blood test or even biopsy the area to test for the presence of cancer or other health issues,” says Dr. Stephen C. Dwyer of Northwest Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery.

Treating Your Mouth Rash

In many cases, your mouth rash will disappear as fast as it appeared, often clearing up within a week or two.

Some tips to treat your mouth rash at home include:

  • Avoid using alcohol or using tobacco products
  • Gargle with salt water
  • Do not eat hot or spicy foods or foods that are high in salt or citrusy
  • Do not use mouthwash
  • Take over-the-counter pain relievers as needed

If your mouth rash does not clear up, then a visit to your dentist or doctor is in order and they will be able to help identify what is causing your mouth rash and to prescribe a treatment plan including prescribing anti-inflammatory and/or pain-relieving medications.

For sure, make a healthcare appointment if you have any of the following signs:

  • A rash that appears after starting a medication
  • White patches on the sores
  • Signs of an oral infection such as bleeding or sore gums, tooth sensitivity to hot or cold foods, swelling in your jaw or lymph nodes
  • A rash that does not improve over time or is getting worse with time

“Remember, most rashes in your mouth have benign causes, but if you get frequent mouth rashes, or have a mouth rash that is getting worse or causing you concern, then reach out to a healthcare professional today,” said Dr. Dwyer.

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