What causes white spots on lips? Could these white dots be due to canker sores, HPV STD, milia, oral thrush, herpes, oral cancer, fordyce spots or mucous cysts? Uncover the causes of white spots that can be on your upper, lower, inner lip or along your lip line and on the corner of your mouth. You will also learn how to treat or cure these spots, which can be flat or bumpy (pimple –like), painful or painless.
Having white spots on your lips can make you feel more self-conscious or even lower your self-esteem. Whether they are harmless or not, no one wants to have them.
If you have never seen them before, these white spots or dots on lips can be small (little or tiny) or bigger in size, they could be flat (non-raised white spots on lips) or raised (bumpy or pimple like). Furthermore, they can also form patches or exist singly, be painful (sore or a cause burning feeling) or painless.
Where are they commonly found
The white spots lips affect any area around your lips including on your inside lips, on corners of your lips, along the lip line, on your upper and lower lip among other parts of your lip and mouth cavity. In fact, some of these bumps can also be on your face or any other part of the body.
White spots on lips pictures
To see visually how some of the white spots will actually look like, here are a few images of white dots or spots. We will provide more photos while discussing each of their main causes.
Why do I have white spots on my lips? – Causes
There are many causes of white spots around your lips. Some of the causes could be genetic while others are due to some illness, products used, some abnormalities or poor personal hygiene. So, what are some of the reasons why you have them, or what are these white spots?
Fordyce Spots – yellowish white or pale small spots
If you have small yellowish, white or pale pimple or bump like spots on the sharp demarcation that is between the red colored part of your lip and your normal skin i.e. a vermilion border, they could be Fordyce spots also known as sebaceous prominence or Fordyce granules.
According to medicalnewstoday.com, Fordyce spots are “pale red, yellow-white or skin-colored bumps or spots that appear on the shaft of the penis, the labia, scrotum, or the vermilion border of the lips of a person’s face.” They are normally about 1mm to 3mm in size and they occur when one has a sebaceous gland that lacks a hair follicle.
Besides being on your vermilion border, they also tend to affect the buccal mucosa –“the inner lining of the cheeks and lips”.
Fordyce spots affect male and female and they are not associated with any illness, disease, or infections. They are painless, harmless and they are not a sign of STI (sexually transmitted infection) or cancer. However, they tend to be bigger as someone grows older.
Treatment of Fordyce spots
Treatment is generally discouraged. However, if you really want to treat Fordyce spots, the common treatments are electro desiccation, use of pulsed dye lasers, and micro-punch technique. Chemical peels and anti-sebum ointment or creams can also be of some help.
White spots on lips HPV STD
The other possible reason why you have white spots on your lips can be due to Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. This infection is caused by about 200 different HPV strains, some of which have been linked to cancer of cervix, vagina, vulva, anus, and penis as well as oropharyngeal and mouth cancers.
HPV is an STD that is “transmitted through intimate skin-to-skin contact. You can get HPV by having vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who has the virus”.
Once you have it, HPV commonly affects the genital areas (vagina, vulva, cervix, penis and anus) as well as throat and mouth (in case of oral HPV), and can result to genital and oral warts respectively.
Oral HPV can cause warts “anywhere within the oral cavity or on the lips”, which can “be white and dome shaped or flat topped growths the same color was your mouth”. For the case of lips, they are more common on the inner part of lips where they can vary from being small to spiked or cauliflower like masses that have projections.
It is therefore a fact that HPV can cause white spots on lips. They are generally painless unless you irritate them and you can have just one or multiple of these bumps.
Oral HPV treatment
HPV is not curable although some cases may disappear without treatment. Going for a HPV vaccines have been shown to help reduce risks of cervical and genital cancers. It is unknown if these vaccines can help in reducing risks of oral cancer too due to HPV oral infections.
Note: In case of an ulcer or sore on your lips that doesn’t go away or heal after two weeks, causes pain when swallowing or a persistent lump on your neck, see you doctor.
Milia – small hard white bumps
If you have tiny, little or small whiteheads that keep on coming and going away, you could be having milia, which are “small, hard, white bumps” common on the face but “can occur even on mucous membranes such as the inner surface of the cheek or the vermillion border of the lips”.
They form when skin cells are trapped instead of being naturally shed off and they are common in babies but occur even in preteens, teens and adults.
Some ingredient in lip care products, sun damage and allergic reaction to fluoride in toothpaste are other factors that have been blamed for milia.
Treatment of milia
Best treatment of milia is exfoliation. However, retinol can be of help and if milia won’t come out, consider seeing a doctor or dermatologists for removal. Do not remove them forcefully.
Oral thrush, caused by a fungal infection can cause creamy “white lesions on the lips, mouth, gums, or tonsils”. When they are on your inner and outer lips, the lesions can appear patchy.
Although many other strains can cause oral thrush, candida albicans is the common strain of yeast associated with oral thrush especially in people who use corticosteroids, birth control pills or antibiotics.
Furthermore, illness such as dry mouth, cancer, HIV/AIDS infection having an organ transplant, anemia, wearing dentures, diabetes or even being pregnant can increase the risk of having oral thrush.
Oral thrush can be managed or treated by antifungal medications (liquids, tablets or lozenges).
Herpes simplex virus (HSV) – cold sores or fever blisters
If you have painful, itchy, white bumpy blisters on your lips, it could be cold sores or fever blisters i.e. “cold sores are small blisters that develop on the lips or around the mouth”. They are caused by a contagious viral infection transmitted by skin contact that can be treated by oral and topical antiviral medication.
The fluid-filled blisters initially look like small sores that often come in clusters forming patches; they tingle, and are common on your lip line where the lip meets normal skin and the corner of your mouth. Later on, they tend to merge before bursting living oozy shallow open sores, which will eventually crust over.
White spots on lips cancer
If you have a white spot on your lip that initially is flat and painless and then begins being to ulcerate, it could be a due to oral cancer. This bump tends grow, be hard or never heals.
On possible cause of oral cancer, apart from family cancer history, people who excessively drink, smoke, have HPV infections or are excessively exposed to the sun have a higher oral cancer risk factor.
Treatment is by removal of the cancerous growth, followed by chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy. If treated diagnosed early, you can beat it.
Another cause of white spots on lips including on inside lip skin, on inside cheek or mouth in general is canker sores. Canker sores are painful, burning or tingling ulcerative patches can be round white, gray, or yellowish in color with their edges being red. They are not cancerous and fade away within two weeks.
Canker sores can be due to allergic reactions to some food, tissue trauma, impaired immunity system and nutritional deficiencies especially iron, folic acid, zinc, or vitamin B-12. Gastrointestinal diseases such as Cohn’s disease as well as celiac disease have also blamed for canker sores.
In most cases, canker sores heal without treatment. If they are severe, a doctor might prescribe corticosteroid ointment, antimicrobial mouth rinse or OTC and/or prescribed solutions to reduce irritation and pain.
This is a problem where your skin, including the one on your lips loses pigmentation. The exact cause is unknown but it has been associated with cancer and an autoimmune disease. Vitiligo forms more of white patches other than white spots.
Treatment is by tropical steroid therapy, skin graft, tattooing, autologous melanocyte transplant, depigmentation, and psoralen photochemotherapy
A mucous cyst or a mucocoele refers to fluid filled sacs, swellings or bumps that occur inside the mouth or on inside lips especially the inside lower lips. They form due to plugging of mucus from salary glands.
They can also be due to lip biting, salivary gland rapture or piercings. When they deep in your skin, they tend to be whitish color, tender when touched and appear like a nodule.
Usually, painless and temporary cysts that will go away after sometime but a few could form a permanent cyst, which might require treatment.
In severe cases, treatment is by laser therapy, cryotherapy or use of intralesional corticosteroid injections.
Contact with some “chemicals like mica and titanium are especially known to induce inflammation and irritation of lip mucosa leading to lumpy bumpy appearance of lips along with irritation, burning and peeling of lip”.
To treat contact allergy, use steroids and antihistamines especially if your lip is swollen and/or you have an inflammation. Furthermore, avoid coming in contact with the allergens (allergy causing irritants).
White raised spot due to lip pimple
Having a lip pimple can result to white dot on your lip. There are many causes of lip acne or pimple. See more on pimples on lips where you will cover all the causes and how to get rid of these pimples.
Fibroma refers to a “benign tumor of fibrous connective tissue” that forms a smooth lump in the oral cavity. It could be the color of your mouth (pink) or paler i.e. whitish in color.
It is often caused by trauma especially if you have the lip biting, teeth grinding or the habit of rubbing your lips against poorly fitting dentures.
To successful treat this bumps, which can grow one needs to go for surgical removal.
Other causes white dots in lips
Other possible causes include lip dryness, sunburned lip blisters (can be yellowish white), bacterial infection, hairy leukoplakia, which appear as white, patches on your lower inner lip, inside cheek and on the sides of your tongue.
Does juvederm cause white pimples on lips?
Most people panic when they notice some white spots, dots or bumps after juvederm. For instance, here is what one user asked on realself.com:“I had Juvederm in my lips, and I see little white “pimples” under the skin on my lips. I never had those before. You can’t feel them, but up close, you can see them. What is this?”
In response, various doctors mentioned the fact that it could be due to unrelated cause such as Fordyce spots or the permanent sebaceous glands, which become more noticeable after the procedure. This is the same case for people who complain of white spots on lips when stretched as stretching your lips makes permanent sebaceous glands more visible.
Mouth and lips sores and HIV
When one has HIV, they are more vulnerable to canker sores, cold sores and oral thrush. All these will tend to cause white spots dots or patches on lips and in your mouth cavity.
Small white spots on lips or little white dots on lips
Whereas some white spots on your lips could be bigger and patchy especially those caused by oral cancer, oral thrush or vitiligo, at times you can have tiny white dots on lips. These dots can be on the corners of lips, along your lip line, under your lip skin, on your lower, upper or anywhere on your lips.
Furthermore, they could be bump like (raised) or flat, clustered or singly existing and tend to be more visible when you stretch your lips.
If you have little white spots on lips that are painless, they are likely to be milia, fordyce spots or HPV (in case they have not been irritated).
On the other hands, painful, tingling, sore or painful small white dot on lip, it could be herpes especially if they are clustered specks that form fluid-filled blisters.
Slightly bigger white spots would be lip pimples, fibromas or mucous cysts (if on inner lip) or canker sores (if very painful).
White spot on lower lip
White spots on lower lip can be due to any of the causes we have already discussed. These dots can be flat, raised, on lower lip line, on inner lower lip or anywhere on your bottom lip. Mucous cysts and hairy leukoplakia tend to be common on your lower inner lip but they could due to other causes.
You should only be worried if the white dot on your lower lip won’t go away and it grows since it could be an oral cancer sign.
White spots on upper lip
Just as in the case of white spots on lower lip, your upper lip can end up with most of the types of white dots that affect the lip. They also can be small or bigger, flat or pimple-like, on the lip corners, lip line or anywhere on your upper lip.
If you have white spots on top lip after waxing or threading, it could be infected ingrown hair. This will tend to be on your lip line and beyond.
White spot inside lip
Besides having them on the upper or lower lip, along lip line or lip corner, it is common to have white spot on inside of lip. Just like white dots on any other part of the lip, they could be clustered or singly existing, painless or painful, small or larger.
If the white spots on lips under skin are painless (cause no pain), they are likely to be mucous cysts (fluid filled sac like), milia or fordyce spots (if they are small), fibroma or oral HPV. Milia tend to cause hard small white spots.
On the other hand, if the white spots on inside of lips are painful (sore, burning or hurts), they are likely to be canker sores, fever blisters, infected lip piercing, and oral thrush (common in babies and toddlers but can affect adults too and it will tend to cause white sore patches and not dots). Having irritated oral HPV warts can also cause some pain.
Finally, oral cancer, hairy leukoplakia (common inside bottom lip) and trauma can also result to white dots inside lips. It is wise to go for a medical checkup in case your spots do not go away after two weeks.
White spots on lip line
If you have white spots along your lip line, the most probable culprit will be Fordyce Spots and milia both, which are small, painless. Milia will have small, hard, white bumps while Fordyce spots will be bumpy. Lip pimples can also result to white dots on your lip line.
Finally, although not restricted to your lip line, herpes simplex virus can also results to white bumps on this location.
White spots on corner of lips
If you have white dots on the corner of lips, these are likely to be canker and cold sores. Both are painful
How to get rid of white spots on lips – Tips
While looking at each cause, we covered the various white spots on lips cure and treatments required. We are going to mention a few general tips that can help you if you often get spots on your lips.
- To begin with, do not pick your bump or flat white spots on your lips. Always resist the urge to do so as this will increase the chances of getting an infection.
- Rinse your lip with warm salty water (about a half a teaspoon of salt added to a cup of warm water). Swish the mixture in your mouth before spitting it out.
- Book an appointment with your doctor if the spots bleed, cause neck and jaw swelling, make your tongue numb, you have trouble swallowing, you have fever, sore throat or you feel like something is caught on your throat.