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Cuts and Wounds of the Mouth and Lips

Cuts and Wounds of the Mouth and Lips

Children often get minor cuts and wounds to the mouth and lips. These happen while playing, climbing, or playing sports. Most of these injuries can be handled at home with first aid. The gums, tongue, and lips have a lot of blood supply. These areas may bleed a lot when cut. These areas also tend to heal quickly and are less likely to need stitches than other parts of the body.

First aid for shallow cuts and wounds

To take care of cuts and wounds: 

  • Calm your child and tell them you can help.

  • Wash your hands well.

  • Apply pressure with a clean cloth or bandage for several minutes to stop bleeding.

  • If the wound is on the lips or outside area of the mouth, wash it well with soap and water once bleeding has stopped. Don't scrub the wound. Remove any dirt particles from the area and let the water from the faucet run over it for several minutes. A dirty cut or scrape that is not cleaned well can cause scarring. After it is clean:

    • Apply an antiseptic lotion or cream.

    • Give your child an ice pop or ice cube to suck. This helps reduce bleeding and swelling.

    • Check the area each day and keep it clean and dry.

    • Don't blow on the wound, as this can cause germs to grow.

    • Use a sunscreen (sun protection factor, or SPF, at least 15 or greater) on healed cuts and wounds to help prevent scarring. Don't use in the first 1 to 2 weeks after injury as it is still healing during this time.

  • If the wound is inside the mouth, rinse the area well with cool water for several minutes. Remove any dirt particles from the area. Then:

    • Give your child an ice pop or ice cube to suck on to help reduce bleeding and swelling.

    • Check the area each day and keep it clean.

  • Even small cuts on the lips may cause a visible difference in the border or outline of the lips. These wounds may need stitches to keep the borders even and reduce the risk of scarring. Cuts that happen in the corner of the mouth where the upper and lower lips come together can have very severe bleeding.

  • Cuts inside the mouth, even if they seem large, often heal on their own without the need for stitches. But if they are gaping open and food will get caught in them, they may need stitches.

  • Bruises, blisters, or swelling on the lips caused by injury may be treated by sucking on ice pops or ice cubes. They can also be treated by applying a cold pack to the area every 1 to 2 hours for 10 to 15 minutes for the first 24 hours.

When should I get immediate medical care for my child?

Your child's healthcare provider will talk with you about treatment for cuts and wounds of the mouth that need more than minor treatment at home. Get your child quick medical care for cuts and wounds of the mouth that are:

  • Bleeding and don't stop after 10 to 15 minutes of direct pressure. If the bleeding is extreme, hold pressure for at least 10 minutes without stopping. If the cloth becomes soaked with blood, put a new cloth on top of the old cloth. Don't lift the original cloth. Keep in mind that facial wounds often bleed heavily, even under normal circumstances.

  • Deep or longer than 1/2 inch

  • Large and on the face

  • Caused by a puncture wound or dirty or rusty object

  • Embedded with debris, such as dirt, stones, or gravel

  • Ragged or have separated edges

  • Caused by an animal or human bite

  • Extremely painful or if you think there may be a broken bone (fracture) or head injury

  • Showing a loose or broken tooth (this is better addressed by a dentist)

  • Showing signs of infection, such as increased warmth, redness, swelling, or fluid that leaks out

  • Going from the inside of the mouth through to the outside of the skin

  • Going through the border or outline of the lip (where the red of the lip meets the skin)

Also get your child medical care if:

  • Your child hasn't had a tetanus shot in the past 5 years, or if you are unsure when your child's last tetanus shot was given

  • You are concerned about the wound or have any questions

Preventing mouth injuries

To prevent mouth injuries in children:

  • Teach your child never to walk or run while holding an object in their mouth.

  • Teach your child not to suck or chew on hard, sharp, or pointed objects, such as pencils.

  • Teach your children not to put their face up to an animal's face or mouth

  • Have your child wear a mouth guard for sports activities that could cause injury.

Reviewed Date: 09-01-2023

Cuts and Wounds of the Mouth and Lips

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to substitute or replace the professional medical advice you receive from your child's physician. The content provided on this page is for informational purposes only, and was not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your child's physician with any questions or concerns you may have regarding a medical condition.