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.

  • Deeps

    Hi My 1 year old son was fall down and had a cut around 1-1.5 Cms, doctors advised no need to stich , it will heal up, i am wondering, will it be join perfectly and how much time it will take? ur answers are very much appreciated .

    • http://thesurvivaldoctor.com/ James Hubbard, MD, MPH

      A cut in the mouth or tongue usually takes about a week to heal. All wounds have scars of some sort but, unless it’s a big, gaping wound, it should heal fine.

      • Deeps

        Thanks!!

  • jasmine

    hey can you send me your reply again it seems you got the wrong email I think its updated sorry for the bother..

    • http://thesurvivaldoctor.com/ James Hubbard, MD, MPH

      Depends on the size and the depth of the wound. Have you parents look at it.

  • jasmine

    hello I just have a quick question, me and my sister were arguing over the phone and unfortunately it hit me on my upper lip like around the bottom of my nose so it was bleeding frequently but it stopped and I don’t know if it would leave a scar or not. so thank you if you can contact me as soon as possible.

    • http://thesurvivaldoctor.com/ James Hubbard, MD, MPH

      Jasmine, I already contacted you.

      • jasmine

        oh thank you! ill go see it right away sorry for bothering you!:)

  • jasmine

    me and my sister was fighting over the phone and sadly it hit me in the top of my mouth like right under my nose it was bleeding a lot but it stopped now but im really scared that it might leave a scar!!!

    • http://thesurvivaldoctor.com/ James Hubbard, MD, MPH

      Depends on the size and the depth of the wound. Have you parents look at it.

  • Rusty Shackleford

    Sorry for the multiple posts. I’m using an iPhone and when the page refreshed my post disappeared. Then I found the sort option. Found my posts! LOL!

  • Rusty Shackleford

    I have two stitches on the inside of my bottom lip after a surgeon cut out a reversed hair follicle today. The hair would get caught between my bottom teeth (like floss) and I’m concerned that the length of my stitches will cause them to get caught between my teeth also. Can I trim my stitches and if so, how short? 1/8 1/16?

  • Rusty Shackleford

    I have two stitches on the inside of my bottom lip after a surgeon cut out a reversed hair follicle today. The hair would get caught between my bottom teeth (like floss) and get pulled out. I’m concerned that the length of my stitches will cause them to get caught between my teeth also. Can I trim my stitches and if so, how short? 1/8 1/16?

  • Rusty Shackleford

    I have two stitches on the inside of my bottom lip. Can I trim the stitches and if so, how short? I have a great eye for small fractions of an inch (1/8 1/16 1/32). I removed a piercing when I decided to grow up years ago and a hair follicle reversed causing problems, so a surgeon cut it out today. The stitches are long and uncomfortable. But my real concern is; the hair that grew inwards would get in between my teeth (like floss) and get pulled out and I’m worried the stitches will do the same thing.
    Thanks in advance!

    • http://thesurvivaldoctor.com/ James Hubbard, MD, MPH

      The type of stitches in the mouth come unraveled pretty easily. The shorter the length, the more likely to unravel. It’s your call.

  • Renee

    My friend kicked me in the face on accident with her heel and my bottom lip in the middle is still bleeding, and this happened about an hour ago. ive been icing it. and i dont know what to eat. ive tried eating peanuts, and that didnt work out very well. Please respond to me ASAP.

    • http://thesurvivaldoctor.com/ James Hubbard, MD, MPH

      Renee, please refer to #4 in the post. Thanks.

  • Kristen

    What would be the best signs of an infection? I recently fell and bit a large chunk out of my bottom lip, and have some small scabs, swelling a bit, and the part I’m worried about is the missing chunk. It’s whitish and can smell a bit but it’s not very painful except when eating, but I’ve been careful when doing so. I’m wondering if the white/off-white is new tissue growing and the smell is perhaps part of the healing, but I’d hate to find out it’s actually infected. I’ve used alcohol free mouth wash, sea salt spray, and I’ve done some very carefully applied hydrogen peroxide to just kill off any germs. (Rinsed with sea salt after to get rid of the hydro pero.) I’m attaching a photo since you have that option!

    Thanks for your time and possible help! Sorry for the gross picture, I’m sure you’ve seen much worse!

    • Kristen

      Image!

      • http://thesurvivaldoctor.com/ James Hubbard, MD, MPH

        Kristen, I’m sorry but I can’t diagnose individual patients without an exam. If you are concerned you should have a health care provider in your area take a look.