What is mouth injury?

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Mouth and dental injuries: Overview

Mouth injuries are common, especially in children. They can involve the teeth, jaw, lips, tongue, inner cheeks, gums, roof of the mouth (hard or soft palates), neck, or tonsils. Sometimes mouth injuries look worse than they are. Even a small cut or puncture inside the mouth may bleed a lot. That's because there are many blood vessels in the head and neck area. Home treatment of minor mouth injuries can help stop bleeding, reduce pain, help healing, and prevent infection.

Teeth may be injured during a fall or a sport activity. A tooth may be knocked out (avulsed). You may be able to replace a permanent tooth in its socket (reimplant) if it has been knocked out or torn away from the socket. and dental care are needed right away when a permanent tooth has been knocked out.

An injury could crack, chip, or break a tooth. Or it could make a tooth change color. A tooth also may be loose or moved in position (dental luxation) or jammed into the gum (intruded).

Other dental injuries may be caused by grinding your teeth, especially at night. Your teeth may hurt, chip, or become loose. Biting surfaces may become flat and worn down. A broken or loose dental appliance or an orthodontic wire or bracket may poke or rub the inside of your mouth and make your mouth sore.

An injury to your mouth or lips may cause a large, loose flap of tissue or a gaping wound that may need stitches. A smaller wound on the lip may be stitched for cosmetic reasons. If an object, such as a piece of broken tooth or an orthodontic wire, gets stuck in a wound, you may need to have it removed by a doctor. You can also have problems from a piercing in the mouth.

The piece of skin between your lips and gums or under your tongue (frenulum) may tear or rip. Usually this type of injury will heal without stitches. It's generally not a concern unless the tear was caused by physical or sexual abuse.

An injury to the roof of your mouth, the back of your throat, or a tonsil can injure deeper tissues in your head or neck. These injuries can happen when a child falls with a pointed object, such as a pencil or the stick from a frozen treat, in his or her mouth.

How can you care for your child who has a mouth injury?

  • Apply a cold compress to the injured area. Or have your child suck on a piece of ice or a flavored ice pop.
  • Rinse your child's wound with warm salt water right after meals. Saltwater rinses may relieve some pain. To make a saltwater solution for rinsing the mouth, mix 1 tsp of salt in 1 cup of warm water.
  • Have your child eat soft foods that are easy to swallow.
  • Avoid giving your child foods that might sting. These include salty or spicy foods, citrus fruits or juices, and tomatoes.
  • If a jagged tooth or orthodontic wire or bracket is poking your child, roll a piece of melted candle wax or orthodontic wax and press it onto the part that is poking. Use a pencil eraser to press a broken wire toward the teeth. These are only short-term measures to use until you can see your child's dentist or orthodontist to fix the problem.
  • Be safe with medicines. Give pain medicines exactly as directed.
    • If the doctor gave your child a prescription medicine for pain, give it as prescribed.
    • If your child is not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask the doctor if your child can take an over-the-counter medicine.
  • If the doctor prescribed antibiotics for your child, give them as directed. Do not stop using them just because your child feels better. Your child needs to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • Try using a topical medicine, such as Orabase, to reduce mouth pain. If your child is under 2 years of age, ask your doctor if your child can use this medicine.

How to stop bleeding from a mouth wound

If emergency care is not needed, the following steps will protect the wound and protect you from exposure to another person's blood.

  1. Wash your hands well with soap and water, if available.
  2. Put on medical gloves before applying pressure to the wound.

    If gloves are not available, to apply pressure you can:

    • Use many layers of fabric, plastic bags, or whatever you have between your hands and the wound.
    • Have the person hold their own hand over the wound, if possible, and apply pressure to the injured area.
    • Use your bare hands to apply pressure only as a last resort.
  3. Have the person sit up and tilt their head forward with the chin down.

    This will help any blood drain out of the mouth, not down the back of the throat. Swallowing blood can cause vomiting.

  4. Remove any visible objects that are easy to remove.

    Remove chewing gum if it is present. Do not attempt to clean out the wound.

  5. Remove any jewelry from the general area of the wound.
  6. Press firmly on the wound with a clean cloth.
    • If there is a skin flap, return it to its normal position. If necessary, hold the flap in place with a clean cloth or gauze.
    • If you don't have a clean cloth, use the cleanest material available.
    • If there is an object in the wound, apply pressure around the object, not directly over it.
  7. Apply steady pressure for a full 15 minutes.

    Use a clock to time the 15 minutes. It can seem like a long time. Resist the urge to peek after a few minutes to see whether bleeding has stopped. If blood soaks through the cloth, apply another one without lifting the first.

    • Inner lip bleeding. Press the bleeding site against the teeth or jaw or place a rolled or folded piece of gauze or clean cloth between the lip and gum. Once bleeding from inside the lip stops, don't pull the lip out again to look at it. The person should avoid yawning or laughing, which may make the bleeding begin again.
    • Tongue bleeding. Squeeze or press the bleeding site with gauze or a piece of clean cloth.
    • Inner cheek bleeding. Place rolled gauze or a piece of clean cloth between the wound and the teeth.
    • After tooth extraction by a health professional, follow any instructions given to you by your health professional. If you do not have the instructions, bite on gauze or a piece of clean cloth to control bleeding. If pressure does not stop the bleeding, try biting down on a moistened tea bag for 10 to 15 minutes. Avoid spitting, using any form of tobacco, and using straws, which can make bleeding worse.
  8. If moderate to severe bleeding has not slowed or stopped, continue direct pressure while getting help.

    Mild bleeding usually stops on its own or slows to an ooze or trickle after 15 minutes of pressure. It may ooze or trickle for up to 45 minutes. Do all you can to keep the wound clean and avoid further injury to the area.

  9. Watch the person so they do not swallow the gauze or cloth.
  10. Do not put a bandage across the mouth.

The person should not exercise for several days. Exercise could raise blood pressure and restart mouth bleeding.

Mouth injury in children: When to call

Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your child has trouble breathing.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has new or worse bleeding.
  • Your child has signs of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the injured area.
    • Pus draining from the injured area.
    • A fever.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • Your child does not get better as expected.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.