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Mouth Diseases

Peeling tongue

03/27/2009

Question:

My daughter was eating sour candy yesterday(sour skittles)and when the package was empty she dumped the remaining "sour powder" into her mouth. Later on that evening she complained of sourness and bumps on her tongue that weren`t there before the candy so i assumed it was whatever was in the sour mixture that irritated her tongue. Today her tongue is actually peeling! She showed me a patch of tongue colored skin that came from her tongue. She is scared and i must admit it has peaked my interest as well. Although i`m sure the candy is the culpret, could it be something else? She doesn`t have any other symptoms ie:thrush, white/red patches

Answer:

You are probably correct in your observation that the candy is the etiological agent (cause). The powder is most likely citric acid and sugars. The sour nature is achieved by the use of high concentrations of citric acid.

The problem with this is 2 fold. The acid on the tongue and oral mucosa "burns" the epithelial layer off, and like most chemical burns, you are seeing sloughing of the superficial layer of mucosa. The other problem is that high acid content can result in dental caries if not buffered or rinsed away.

Normally, when ingesting acidic foods, the low pH is handled by the buffering capacity of saliva and ingestion of water or other liquids to flush the oral cavity. In this case your daughter exceeded the limit of buffering capacity of the saliva, and thus the resultant localized chemical burn.

I would suggest that after such times that she has "skittles, sour patch kids, nerds, pixie sticks, etc." that she rinse her mouth with water and/or dilute baking soda rinse (1 tsp in 8 oz water), and spit out the rinse.

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Response by:

Richard J Jurevic, DDS, PhD Richard J Jurevic, DDS, PhD
Formerly, Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences
School of Dental Medicine
Case Western Reserve University