Mouth Trauma

Injury Definition
Injuries to the lip, flap under the upper lip (frenulum), tongue, inner cheeks, floor of the mouth, roof of the mouth (hard and soft palate), or back of the mouth (tonsils and oropharynx). The types of injuries include:

  • Cuts of the tongue or inside of the cheeks (due to accidentally biting them during eating) are the most common mouth injury.
  • Cuts and bruises of the upper lip are usually due to falls. A tear of the piece of tissue connecting the upper lip to the gum (upper labial frenulum) is very common and always heals without sutures.
  • Cuts of the lower lip are usually caused by catching it between the upper and lower teeth during a fall. Most of these cuts do not connect (don’t go through the lip.)
  • Potentially serious mouth injuries are those to the tonsil, soft palate, or back of the throat (as from falling with a pencil in the mouth).

See More Appropriate Topic

Call 911 Now (your child may need an ambulance) If

  • Major bleeding that can’t be stopped

Call Your Doctor Now (night or day) If

  • You think your child has a serious injury
  • Minor bleeding won’t stop after 10 minutes of direct pressure
  • Deep or gaping cut that may need stitches
  • Cut through border of the lip where it meets the skin
  • Severe pain
  • Inability to swallow or new onset of drooling
  • Injury to the back of the throat, tonsil, or soft palate caused by a pencil or other long object placed in the mouth
  • Mouth looks infected (fever, spreading redness, increasing pain or swelling after 48 hours) (Note: Any healing wound in the mouth is normally white for several days)

Call Your Doctor Within 24 Hours (between 9 and 4) If

  • You think your child needs to be seen

Call Your Doctor During Weekday Office Hours If

  • You have other questions or concerns

Parent Care at Home If

  • Mild mouth injury and you don’t think your child needs to be seen

Home Care Advice for Mild Mouth Injuries

  1. Stop Any Bleeding
    • For bleeding of the inner lip or tissue that connects it to the gum, press the bleeding site against the teeth or jaw for 10 minutes.
    • Once bleeding from inside the lip stops, don’t pull the lip out again to look at it. (Reason: the bleeding will start up again.)
    • For bleeding from the tongue, squeeze or press the bleeding site with a sterile gauze or piece of clean cloth for 10 minutes.
  2. Ice: Put a piece of ice or Popsicle on the area that was injured for 20 minutes.
  3. Pain Medicine: If there is pain, give acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
  4. Soft Diet: Offer a soft diet. Avoid any salty or citrus foods that might sting. Rinse the wound with warm water immediately after meals.
  5. Expected Course: Small cuts and scrapes inside the mouth heal up in 3 or 4 days. Infections of mouth injuries are rare.
  6. Call Your Doctor If
    • Your child becomes worse or develops any of the “Call Your Doctor Now” symptoms
    • Pain becomes severe
    • Area looks infected (mainly increasing pain or swelling after 48 hours)
    • Fever occurs