When I was a kid I used to be afraid the suction tube used at the dentist’s office would suck up my tongue. I have never seen that happen, but I have noticed that when children undergo long dental procedures, the suction is often hooked at the corner of the mouth for an extended period of time. Between the saliva that accumulates under the hook and “digests” the lip and the wet irritation from a piece of plastic pressing against the edge of the mouth, the kids may emerge with a sore at the corner of their mouths. The catch: the sore usually does not appear for a couple of days, sending parents into my office concerned about cold sores or infection after they have forgotten about the dental visit.
Fortunately, the mucosal (moist) areas of the mouth heal rapidly because of a rich blood supply which brings nutrients to the area quickly. However, before it heals, the area on and around the lip where the suction sat looks ugly, white and heaped up the by the third or fourth day after the dental visit. Keep the area clean with soap and water and put on a barrier protection such as petroleum jelly based product (eg Vaseline, aquaphor) so that any drool will not further irritate the area. Apply barrier protection the next time your child visits the dentist.
Naline Lai, MD with Julie Kardos, MD
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