How to Treat a Cut in Your Mouth

There are many potential causes of a cut in your mouth—and it can be caused by something internal (such as biting your cheek) or external (such as a dental procedure). While most mouth cuts require minimal treatment, some are serious and require emergency care. Direct trauma to the face, deep lacerations to the inner cheek, gums, or tongue, and related dental injuries may require treatment.

Man feeling pain and discomfort while brushing teeth in bathroom, holding toothbrush, touching cheek with painful grimace

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Minor Injuries

If you experience a cut in your mouth, the first course of action is to stop the bleeding.

Mild Cuts

If the cut is relatively mild, try rinsing your mouth with a little ice water. This shrinks some of the smaller blood vessels, which slows bleeding, and can help reduce swelling and pain.

Applying a cold compress to the outside of your cheek can have a similar effect. You might consider rolling an ice cube in your mouth until the bleeding stops and the pain recedes.

Deeper Cuts

If the cut is slightly deeper, you may need to apply direct pressure to the wound. Start by washing your hands with hot water and soap. You can then press a piece of sterile gauze against the wound until the bleeding stops.

If you don't have gauze, some dentists endorse the use of a moistened tea bag; the tannins found in tea may act as a vasoconstrictor, effectively shrinking the blood vessels.

Pain Relief and Preventing Infection

Tylenol (acetaminophen) can provide short-term pain relief. Avoid aspirin, which can promote bleeding.

Once the bleeding stops, get a tube of antibiotic cream made especially for oral sores (like Orajel). Some have numbing agents that can help ease the pain.

To help the wound heal, some people will turn to home remedies that have antiseptic or antibacterial properties. These include clove oil, which can be applied directly to the cut, or a poultice-like paste made of water and baking soda.

Don't use any antibiotic creams in your mouth if they are not intended for internal use. Speak with the pharmacist if you are unsure.

While Healing

Avoid heavy brushing or flossing around the affected area. Alcohol-based mouthwashes can cause stinging. The same applies to acidic, spicy, crunchy, or excessively salty foods.

If you wear braces, get some orthodontic wax from the pharmacy and apply it over any brackets or wires near the cut. This will help prevent the reopening of the wound.

Emergency Situations

If you are unable to stop the bleeding or if the injury is clearly severe, you need to seek the appropriate medical care. Deep lacerations and heavy bleeding should be treated at the nearest emergency room.

Call 911 if you are feeling lightheaded or clammy, or have a rapid pulse and respiration. Dental emergencies should be treated at a dental clinic.

In an emergency room situation, priority will be placed on stopping the immediate bleeding. In some cases, stitches may be used. The stitches may either be dissolvable or will need to be removed in five days or so. You will typically be given an oral antibiotic and a mild painkiller to aid in your recovery.

If the laceration is deep, the doctor may order an X-ray or CT scan to establish the nature and extent of the injury. If you were given a blood transfusion or experience any signs of shock, you may be kept in the hospital overnight for observation.

If serious tooth damage also occurred, you will be referred to a dental surgeon for an appointment at a later date. Be sure to ask the hospital staff for a copy of the X-rays to take with you.

Tooth Injuries

Very often, tooth injuries go hand-in-hand with serious cuts inside the mouth. Some dental emergencies require immediate attention; others are more cosmetic and may be dealt with in a day or so.

Chipped Tooth

If a tooth is chipped, save any broken bits so that you can take them with you to the dentist as soon as possible. Follow the home care tips above if there is any bleeding.

Partially Dislodged Tooth

If a tooth is partially dislodged, focus on controlling the bleeding first. You should then rush to the dentist as soon as possible to seek treatment. This may involve dental splinting, socket repair, or tooth replacement.

Dental repositioning and splinting of displaced teeth is much easier to accomplish shortly/immediately after the trauma. Waiting for too long makes this task challenging.

Broken Crown or Bridge

If a dental crown falls off or a bridge is broken, see your dentist as soon as possible. While you are waiting, replace the crown if you can with some denture glue or an over-the-counter dental cement. Do not use household glue.

Tooth Knocked Out

If a tooth is knocked out, hold the tooth by the crown (the exposed part above the gum) and rinse off the root if it is dirty. Do not scrub the tooth or remove excess tissue.

If possible, reinsert the tooth into the socket. If it is not, gently stuff some gauze into the tooth gap to stave the bleeding. Place the tooth in a container of milk, and rush to the dentist's office.

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends rinsing with saline and reimplanting immediately. The goal is to keep the cells around the root alive. If reimplantation is not possible, store in milk or Hanks solution to prevent dehydration of the tooth. Knocked-out teeth have the greatest chance of being saved if reinserted within an hour of the injury.

Care After Dental Treatment

Depending on the procedure used, the dentist may prescribe oral antibiotics and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like Advil (ibuprofen) or Aleve (naproxen) to aid in the recovery.

If dental stitches are used, you would be asked to avoid smoking, alcohol, or sipping through a straw while you heal. In addition to eating soft foods, you will need to follow strict instructions on how to care for your surgical dressings.

Even though dental sutures typically dissolve on their own, you will still need to follow up with the dentist to assess how the wound is healing.

A Word From Verywell

Even if you are able to stop the bleeding from a mouth injury, it is still a good idea to see a dentist if the cut is deep or the pain is making it difficult to eat or sleep. However, if you experience fever, chills, swelling, redness, swollen lymph nodes, or abnormal drainage of the wound, see your dentist as a matter of urgency. You may have developed an infection in need of immediate care.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Do cuts inside the mouth heal faster than other cuts?

    Typically, yes. Saliva helps in the speedy healing of mouth wounds by keeping the injured tissue moist, creating a perfect environment for new cells to develop. Saliva also contains a variety of substances that enhance healing, including cytokines (immune system cells) and histatins—proteins that have antimicrobial and antifungal properties and also help close up wounds.

  • Can cuts inside of the mouth get infected?

    Not often. The mouth is full of so-called friendly bacteria that help to fight off infection-causing microbes. That's not to say it can't happen, especially if a lesion is deep or caused by gum disease, tooth loss, or dental procedures that require stitches.

  • Why do cuts inside of the mouth sometimes turn white?

    During the healing process of, say, a wound in the tissue that lines the cheek, a blister or ulcer (sore) may form. As this lesion breaks down, dead skin cells and food particles may cause it to turn white.

4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Steele SK. “Controlling Gingival Bleeding With Tea Bags.” Oncol Nurs Forum. 1992 May;19(4):663.

  2. Bakland, L. Dental Trauma Guidelines. J Endodonics. 2013:39(3):S6-S8. DOI: 10.1016/j.joen.2012.10.021.

  3. Brand HS, Veerman EC. Saliva and wound healingChin J Dent Res. 2013;16(1):7-12.

  4. Merck Manual Consumer Version. Mouth sores and inflammation.

By Shawn Watson
Shawn Watson is an orthodontic dental assistant and writer with over 10 years of experience working in the field of dentistry.