What to Do When You Bite Your Lip or Tongue

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Biting down on your lip or tongue usually happens unexpectedly. 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 that presses your teeth against your lips or tongue. Children are at high risk for biting their lip or cheek after being anesthetized for dental work.

Such a bite can result in quite a bit of bleeding because the mouth has an excellent blood supply. Most times, it only results in pain and swelling. ​Mouth wounds heal fairly quickly thanks to that great blood supply. But there are instances where biting down on your lip or tongue requires medical attention. Here are the steps to take at home and when to seek help.

What to Do After Biting Your Lip or Tongue

  • When you bite your lip or tongue, assess the area for any debris, especially 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.
  • Rinse the wound with cold water. For cuts inside the mouth, you can clean it further by rinsing with saltwater. Adults can use a solution of one part hydrogen peroxide to one part water if they wish, but this should be avoided for children, who might swallow it.
  • Control any bleeding by applying 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.
  • If the bleeding stops, apply a cold compress to the area to reduce swelling.

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 with skin damage from the cold.

  • For injuries inside the mouth, you might use a popsicle to keep the area cold or hold ice cubes inside your mouth.
  • It may be necessary to take an over-the-counter pain relief medication to manage any discomfort from the wound.
  • Be aware that acidic or salty foods might make the area sting as it heals. You can rinse with water after eating or drinking to help.
  • As the wound heals, inspect it for any signs of infection. If you suspect the area has become infected, see your dentist or physician as soon as possible.

When to See a Doctor

You should seek medical attention if you have these problems:

  • If you have debris stuck in the wound, go to a doctor to have it removed safely.
  • Bleeding that doesn't stop after applying pressure, and a cold compress may require stitches.
  • A doctor should treat cuts that cross the border between the lip and the facial skin as they can heal and leave an irregular line that will be noticeable.
  • Deep cuts need medical attention.
  • A dentist should check Broken or loose teeth
  • Signs of infection developing days after the injury, including redness, tenderness, fever, pus, or swelling, need medical attention.
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Article Sources

  • Tips for Dealing With Dental Emergencies - Bitten Lip or Tongue. American Dental Association.