Cuts and Wounds of the Mouth and Lips
Children often get minor cuts and wounds to the mouth and lips while playing, climbing, or joining in sports activities. Most of these injuries can be handled at home with simple first aid treatment. The gums, tongue, and lips have a lot of blood supply. When cuts happen, these areas may bleed a lot. 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 let them know 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 well cleaned can cause scarring. Then:
Apply an antiseptic lotion or cream.
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 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:
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 need stitches.
Bruises, blisters, or swelling on the lips caused by injury may be treated by sucking on ice pops or ice cubes or 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. In general, 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 to look at the cut. 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 break (fracture) or head or bone 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 leaking
Going from the inside of the mouth and go through to the outside
Going through the border or outline of the lip
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.
© 2000-2021 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.