Mouth Cut. Tongue Cut. What to Do.

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This survival-medicine website provides general information, not individual advice. Most scenarios assume the victim cannot get expert medical help. Please see the disclaimer.

What to Do If You Cut Your Mouth or Tongue

mouth cut

Mouth cuts always get infected

by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H.

You’re camping in a remote part of Alaska. The helicopter that brought you in won’t be back for days. You slip and hit a rock. Your front tooth cuts through your lip or cuts your tongue. What do you do? How do you treat a mouth cut or a tongue cut when no medical help is around?

Actually, a mouth cut is one of the easier cuts to treat. Granted, it’s painful and tends to get infected. But we don’t stitch the mouth, inner lips, inner cheeks, tongue, or gums unless it’s big, gaping wound or it won’t stop bleeding.

Note: If the cut involves the outer lip or face, click here.

So you’ve got an inner lip cut, tongue cut, whatever mouth cut you choose, and there’s no help around. Here’s what to do:

1. Clean the cut.

  • Pick out any obvious debris.
  • Irrigate the cut with water. Swish the water in your mouth, or squirt it into the cut.

2. Stop the cut from bleeding.

  • Stuff a clean cloth between the cut and your gum or teeth. (No cloth? Squeeze, pinch, apply pressure of some sort. Ten minutes should do it.)
  • Ice the cut for five to ten minutes, if possible. You can use the ice as part of the compression inside the mouth or wrap cloth around the ice and use it on the outside.

3. Start an antibiotic, if available.

  • You can expect any mouth cut to get swollen, painful, and infected. The mouth is full of bacteria. There’s no way to keep the wound sterile.

4. Eat soft food, don’t chew on that side, avoid salty foods (they make the cut sting).


And that’s all you can do. That’s all medical personnel do unless the cut is gaping badly or won’t stop bleeding. Then we’ll put in stitches, but only then. The reason is twofold:

  1. Sutures are foreign material that bacteria can attach to, so the infection may be worse.
  2. Infected wounds need to be able to drain if bacteria and pus build up. Otherwise you may get an abscess (trapped bacteria and pus).

Even if you partially tear the tongue frenulum (that little piece of skin that attaches your under-tongue to your lower mouth) or the lip frenulum (connecting the upper lip to the gum), don’t worry. Just follow these instructions, and it’ll grow back together unless it’s a really bad cut.

What to Do for Mouth Cuts on the Outside

If the outside lip or face is cut, clean that, and tape it like you would any other cut. (But keep the inner mouth/tongue wounds open.)

If the outside colored part of the lip is cut, that’s more of a problem. You want it to grow back straight, so a doctor should see that ASAP. If that’s not possible, tape it back as straight as you can, keeping the colored edge as even as you can.

  • eoin

    cut my tongue trainning a week back. got infected. but they are small bite marks 3 in total. iam just worring because its been over a week now but the cuts werent deep. been using mouth wash called oraldene on it also salt water and bonjela to numb it. its annoying me.

  • Owen

    My little sister just crashed on her ATV and bit her tongue all the way through.Think she’ll be alright?

  • Kayla Reichler

    After I woke up I was talking and found that my tongue hurts after eatinf some candy, then I looked and saw the middle of my tongue was a medium deep cut. Not sure what’s going on its not bleeding just hurts :(

    • James Hubbard, MD, MPH

      I’m not sure either. As mentioned in the post, most tongue cuts heal but if you have doubts, or it seems to be getting badly infected, I’d see a doctor.

  • damian

    so i was drinking a coke and my asshole friend hit the end and it cut off a big peice of my gum does it grow back?

  • Jill McCauley

    I fell and put my tooth to the top of my bottom lip pretty bad. It’s been 10 days and the actual cut is almost healed but my lip is still swollen where the cut was and had a hard knot below where cut was. Is the swelling and hard knot normal when cut is almost healed?

    • James Hubbard, MD, MPH

      Sometimes there can be a knot of scar tissue or swelling. Certainly if either is giving you trouble or if the swelling is not going away, you should be checked.

  • king07

    i cut my tongue while eating a pear drop and it stings what shall i do it was bleeding alot

  • Jess

    I was trying to pick something out from between my teeth and my nail slipped and I cut the upper gum and inside lip. I was bleeding a lot and now has gone white (3 days later) and hurt a lot. It looks like a long thin canker sore. Should I go see a doctor or will it heal without antibiotics? Also is there anything for the pain? It hurts a lot all the time. Thank you

    • James Hubbard, MD, MPH

      In general, if it’s getting more swollen, red, or painful, you should see a doctor. Meanwhile, maybe some warm water, orajel, or clove oil could ease the pain and/or some ibuprofen. acetaminophen, or naproxen.

  • jaymee

    This is it

  • jaymee

    My name is jaymee and I was playing softball and I bit my tounge it was bleeding and its not now but theres a cut what should I do?

    • James Hubbard, MD, MPH

      I can only give you the general information on the post. You, or someone you get to check you, has to make the final decision on what to do.

      • James Hubbard, MD, MPH

        And, in the end, the decision will probably be which is better, leaving it alone and causing a bigger scar, or closing it up. Yours is right on the border of size that it could go either way.

  • Richelle

    Hello. So I read a lot of your answers. But I gave to ask for myself. My 19mo boy fell while playing with a plastic tube in his mouth, the tube jammed under his tongue and seed to cut or injure in some way the underneath/possibly his frenulum…I’m not sure,as he won’t let me get a clear look at it. But it’s really ugly poking under there. It bled pretty bad. Although it did stop bleeding. He can drink his bottle/milk…and refuses to eat anything.(understandibly) I’m worried…will he be ok?

    • James Hubbard, MD, MPH

      Richelle, he should see a doctor. There’s no way I could predict if he’s going to be ok without an exam. And the post is suggestions for when a doctor is not an option.

      • Charlie Schaefer

        I bit my tongue and I’m on blood thinners and it’s been bleeding out for 2 hours pretty bad what should I do to stop it

        • James Hubbard, MD, MPH

          If you’re on warfarin and it’s bleeding more a lot, you should see a doctor tonight, or call your regular doctor.