Why does the tissue in my mouth shed?
September 15, 2011 3:12 PM   Subscribe

The epithelial tissue in my mouth sheds itself daily. Up until today I had no idea that this was abnormal.

So the dentist today at my checkup noticed what he deemed to be 'chemical burns' in my mouth - the epithelial tissue up in the pockets above and below my gums was whitish, and could be easily sloughed off.

He said it wasn't something to be overly alarmed about, but that it's causing some tissue damage. He seemed a bit weirded out by it.

I don't do anything with my mouth that could cause a chemical burn - no smoking, nothing particularly abnormal with my diet.

In fact, I thought it was totally normal to shed bits of white tissue from my cheeks on a daily basis, as it's been happening to me since I was a child. Generally I notice it in the morning, the bits come off as I rub my cheeks with my tongue, and I either spit them out or swallow them (we're not talking about a huge amount here, maybe a 2-3 square centimeters of really thin tissue)

I'm going to try switching to a natural toothpaste and rinsing more thoroughly, in case it's an allergy to toothpaste/mouthwash, but I thought I'd post a question in case anyone has dealt with this before, or has any ideas.
posted by stray to Health & Fitness (32 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
As a data point. I have had that type of skin "shedding" happen occasionally also and never thought anything of it, nor have I connected it to anything. Interesting. (To be clear, maybe 2 or 3 times a year I get this, also mostly in the morning.)
posted by tristeza at 3:25 PM on September 15, 2011

Mouthwash is pretty harsh, and designed to cause minor chemical burns in a way. Plus, there's concern that it causes cancer.

That'd be my first try.
posted by cmoj at 3:26 PM on September 15, 2011

Look, I know you're going to get a lot of reflexive "talk to your doctor", but. . . non-reflexively, have a serious conversation with your doctor. If your epithelial tissue is sloughing off at very high rates, then it has to be replaced at very high rates, which means that there's a constant selection going on in your mouth for fast-growing tissue. Selecting for fast-growing tissue will increase your mouth cancer risk. How much? I have no idea, I'm not a doctor.

Besides that, even if my doctor kind of blew that off, if I were you, I'd be extra-sure to have my mouth health checked on a regular basis.
posted by endless_forms at 3:26 PM on September 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Do you drink coffee or orange juice in the mornings?
posted by jangie at 3:29 PM on September 15, 2011

My mother in law gets something very similar to this from any sort of citrus or from celery for some reason.
posted by wwax at 3:32 PM on September 15, 2011

I'd ask your doctor, not dentist, about this. They may make a referral to someone such as an ENT to look into it more closely. Pursue this until you have some sort of a definitive answer.

IANAD, etc.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 3:35 PM on September 15, 2011

I've had mouth-leprosy* inducing episodes with mouthwash, that have since been eliminated by rinsing with water afterward.

*not actually leprosy
posted by A Terrible Llama at 3:37 PM on September 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

I get this when I eat things I'm (mildly) allergic to. I'm allergic to aluminum but when I eat products which contain aluminum I don't get any symptoms but a slight burning in my mouth and the kind of peeling you describe, rather than stomach issues. Are you sure this isn't an allergy?
posted by boobjob at 3:38 PM on September 15, 2011

This happened to me with Crest brand toothpaste and has never occurred at any other time.
posted by Cygnet at 3:50 PM on September 15, 2011

A friend of mine gets this when she eats raw tomato, which she's mildly allergic to. Nthing that it might be an allergic reaction to something. Do you eat or drink something on a daily or frequent basis, say orange juice with breakfast? I'd eliminate daily food items one at a time for a week or two each and see if it improves.
posted by bedhead at 3:50 PM on September 15, 2011

i used to get this with whitening toothpaste. i assumed i was allergic to whatevertheheck they put in there. i switched to something less intense and it went away in a few days. the more you know.
posted by andreapandrea at 3:51 PM on September 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

How hot do you drink your tea/coffee/soup?

Also, I get this when I drink orange juice or use mouthwash.
posted by lollusc at 3:52 PM on September 15, 2011

Add me in the group that didn't know this was abnormal.

It's always happened to me to, not every day but often. I've noticed it happens more with certain mouthwashes and after I've been sick. I don't know if it does it with orange juice, I'll have to pay attention next time I have some.
posted by TooFewShoes at 4:02 PM on September 15, 2011

Strawberries do this to me.

Also, nthing the mouthwash thing. Even natural, non-alcohol mouthwash will make the insides of my mouth feel like I've been eating acid.

Seeing a doctor about this to rule out auto-immune disorders is a VERY good idea. There are a couple out there that I know of that can involve mucosal tissue, salivary glands, and other structures in your mouth. But the more affordable first step would be to stop with the mouthwash (most people don't need it anyway), maybe switch to a xylitol gum for breath freshening instead (I personally recommend Spry, it has no aspartame) and see if there is a dietary correlation.
posted by evilcupcakes at 4:21 PM on September 15, 2011

I had a dentist say the same thing to me except he phrased it more as, "What in the sam hell kind of toothpaste are you using, anyway?!" Turns out some people are pretty sensitive to Crest Pro-Health, myself included.

He switched me to Tom's of Maine, and that was the end of that problem. I didn't know it was a problem until then, either!
posted by adiabat at 4:25 PM on September 15, 2011

This could be auto-immune, as in an allergy, or it could be indicative of another type of auto-immune disorder that might need monitoring or treatment so you really need to see a doctor about this.
posted by the young rope-rider at 4:29 PM on September 15, 2011

Much more information is needed about your habits. Do you use alcohol based mouthwashes, do you notice a difference when you eat or drink acidic things (juices, tomatoes, etc.), do you wear a mouth guard or other device, do you use chopstick or lip products, when do you notice the sloughing...in the morning after you wake up or..., etc.

More specifics might help narrow down the cause.
posted by Mr. Papagiorgio at 4:42 PM on September 15, 2011

Crest Pro Health does this to me.
posted by biscotti at 4:45 PM on September 15, 2011

Thanks for the ideas, all. I'll start cutting out various things and see what that does. I don't think additional details about my habits will help much, as this has been going on literally every single day of my life since I was, say, 10. And my eating/drinking habits have varied considerably in that time - eg. I didn't start drinking coffee until I was probably 18, etc. But I will try cutting things out one by one and see what happens.
posted by stray at 4:50 PM on September 15, 2011

Try switching up your toothpaste. This happens when I use certain toothpastes....oddly enough, Crest Pro-Health.
posted by SoulOnIce at 5:13 PM on September 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

I know exactly what you're talking about. Apparently it's a "thing", even! See here. Mouth boogers, belch. Mine went away when I stopped using whitening toothpaste.
posted by Jemstar at 5:14 PM on September 15, 2011

I'm going to try switching to a natural toothpaste and rinsing more thoroughly, in case it's an allergy to toothpaste/mouthwash

Mouthwash, eh?

Are you using whitening mouthwash, by any chance? That stuff makes my mouth all peely.
posted by Sys Rq at 5:24 PM on September 15, 2011

Going to concur on the toothpaste thing. I have this, too and I'm allergic (or sensitive, I suppose) to almost every toothpaste except plain Colgate, plain Crest and Ultrabrite. My new dentist was pretty casual about it. No one else had really mentioned it before. I know a couple people who are sensitive to toothpaste. I'd switch to the plain varieties or Tom's maybe. Ultrabrite is pretty harsh on the tooth enamel, I hear.
posted by mrfuga0 at 5:53 PM on September 15, 2011

This happens to me periodically as well, and does seem to be related to acidic food and irritants.

If your epithelial tissue is sloughing off at very high rates, then it has to be replaced at very high rates, which means that there's a constant selection going on in your mouth for fast-growing tissue. Selecting for fast-growing tissue will increase your mouth cancer risk. How much? I have no idea, I'm not a doctor.

That's not exactly how it works, cells don't evolve into cancer, they mutate into cancer. A nice explanation of cancerous cells can be found on the Oral Cancer Foundation site, excerpted below.
We know that all cancers (neoplastic transformations) result from changes (mutations) in genes which control cell behaviors. Mutated genes may result in a cell which grows and proliferates at an uncontrolled rate, is unable to repair DNA damage within itself, or refuses to self destruct or die (apoptosis). It takes more than one mutation to turn a cell cancerous. Specific classes of genes must be mutated several times to result in a neoplastic cell, which then grows in an uncontrolled manner. When a cell does become mutated to this point, it is capable of passing on the mutations to all of its progeny when it divides. Genetic mistakes randomly happen each day in the course of our bodies replacing billions of cells. Besides these random occurrences, genetic errors can be inherited, be caused by viruses, or develop as a result of exposure to chemicals or radiation. Our bodies normally have mechanisms that destroy these abnormal cells. We are now discovering some of the reasons this fails to take place, and cancers occur.
posted by desuetude at 6:13 PM on September 15, 2011

Another data point for toothpaste. This happened to me when I switched from natural (Nature's Gate brand) to Sensodyne Whitening.
posted by asynchronous at 7:03 PM on September 15, 2011

My aunt gets this due to chemical sensitivity (she is allergic to artificial scents of all kinds). Have you been allergy tested? Maybe you are having a constant reaction to something dietary or environmental.
posted by Acer_saccharum at 7:16 PM on September 15, 2011

I get this sometimes, but I'm allergic or sensitive to practically half the stuff most people eat.
posted by SMPA at 8:47 PM on September 15, 2011

An old friend of mine always has this happen after eating pizza, I get it fro time to time but not sure why
posted by compound eye at 1:19 AM on September 16, 2011

As another data point, this happened to me. I thought it was normal, I figured it was just another gross thing about getting old, until I mentioned it at a doctor's appointment, and they said that it was most likely a toothpaste allergy.

I had indeed developed an allergy to a specific compound in "fancy toothpastes". Now, the only toothpaste I can use is the base-line product, no whitening, no tartar-control, no nothing. This same compound is in mouthwash. I can't remember what it is, but I knew at some point.
posted by Tooty McTootsalot at 7:09 AM on September 16, 2011

Acid reflux, almost certainly. Try an antacid before bedtime.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:53 AM on September 16, 2011

I have the same thing happen with any "whitening" toothpaste. After every brushing without fail. I switched to non-whitening and it stopped.
posted by cecic at 4:10 PM on September 16, 2011

The first time I used one of those fancy "total" plaque reducing toothpastes, this happened to me. I stopped using it. It might the same toothpaste you've always used or something.
posted by jefftang at 6:04 AM on September 19, 2011

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