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 wounding yourself. You might also bite yourself in the course of falling or another accident.

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

Since the mouth has an ample blood supply, such a bite can result in quite a bit of bleeding. Most times, it only results in pain and swelling. Mouth wounds heal reasonably quickly thanks to that 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, do not attempt to remove it. See a doctor.
  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

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, go to a doctor to have it removed safely.
  • If the bleeding doesn't stop after applying pressure and a cold compress, you may require stitches.
  • A doctor should treat 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 need medical attention.
  • Broken or loose teeth need to be checked by a dentist.
  • Signs of infection require medical attention.

Summary

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. If you notice any signs of infection or if bleeding is profuse or won't stop, seek medical care right away.

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

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

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

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

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

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