What to Do When You Bite Your Lip or Tongue

Biting down on your lip or tongue usually happens unexpectedly. For example, you might just be chewing, and you bite wrong and end up hurting yourself. You might also bite yourself in the course of falling or another accident.

While biting your tongue can result in quite a bit of bleeding, these wounds heal reasonably quickly because the tongue has an excellent blood supply.

But there are instances where biting down on your lip or tongue requires medical attention. This article explains what steps you can take at home and when you should seek help.

What to Do After Biting Your Lip or Tongue
Verywell / Nusha Ashjaee

First Aid for Lip or Tongue Bites

If you have bitten your lip or tongue, follow these steps:

  1. Clean the wound with gauze: When you bite your lip or tongue, assess the area for any debris, primarily if the injury occurred from a fall. Clean the area gently with a clean piece of gauze. If there is debris stuck inside the wound, see a doctor or a dentist. (Dentists may be more familiar with treating lip lacerations.) Do not attempt to remove it yourself.
  2. Rinse the wound with cold water: You can clean it further by rinsing your mouth with salt water. Adults can use a solution of one part hydrogen peroxide to one part water if they wish. However, do not offer this rinse to children because they might swallow it.
  3. Control any bleeding: Apply firm pressure over the wound with a clean piece of gauze or a clean towel. If the bleeding doesn't stop, continue applying pressure to the area and call 911 or head to the nearest medical center for immediate care.
  4. Reduce swelling: If the bleeding stops, apply a cold compress to the area to reduce swelling. For injuries inside the mouth, you might use a popsicle to keep the site cold or hold ice cubes inside your mouth.

Be careful if you apply ice or a cold pack to the outside of your mouth. Make sure it's wrapped in a cloth rather than applied directly to the skin. Otherwise, you might end up damaging your skin from the cold.

While Healing

It may be necessary to take an over-the-counter (OTC) pain relief medication to manage discomfort from your injury. In addition, be aware that acidic or salty foods might make the area sting. So, you may want to avoid those types of foods until it heals. You can rinse with water after eating or drinking to help.

As the wound heals, watch for any signs of infection, such as:

  • Redness
  • Tenderness
  • Fever
  • Pus
  • Swelling

If you suspect the area has become infected, see your dentist or physician as soon as possible.

When to See a Doctor or Dentist

Often, mouth injuries heal on their own. However, you should seek medical attention if you have any of the following problems:

  • If you have debris stuck in the wound
  • If the bleeding doesn't stop after applying pressure and a cold compress
  • Cuts that cross the border between the lip and the face. Otherwise, as they heal, they can leave an irregular line that will be noticeable.
  • Deep cuts
  • Broken or loose teeth
  • Signs of infection

Children are at high risk for biting their lip or cheek after being anesthetized for dental work.


Biting your lip or tongue can cause significant pain. Fortunately, most of the time, the injuries are superficial and heal at home. However, it's a good idea to clean your wound to lessen the likelihood of an infection. Most wounds will show signs of healing within a few days. If they last longer than this, or if bleeding is profuse or won't stop, seek medical care right away.

6 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. Hennessy BJ. Tongue trauma. Merck Manual Professional Version.

  2. Hennessy BJ. Tongue injuries. Merck Manual Consumer Version.

  3. US National Library of Medicine. MedlinePlus. Canker sores.

  4. US National Library of Medicine. MedlinePlus. Bleeding.

  5. Stanford Children’s Health. Cuts and wounds of the mouth and lips.

  6. Ramazani N. Different aspects of general anesthesia in pediatric dentistry: A review. Iran J Pediatr. 2016;26(2):e2613.  doi:10.5812/ijp.2613

Additional Reading

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