Mouth Injuries


Parts of the Mouth

Your mouth allows you to speak, breathe, and chew. Listed below are specific parts of the mouth and where they are located.

  • The hard palate is the front of the roof of the mouth.
  • The soft palate is the back of the roof of the mouth.
  • The uvula is the soft tissue that hangs from the soft palate.
  • The tonsils are balls of tissue on the sides of the throat.
  • The retromolar trigone is tissue that joins the upper and lower jaws.
  • The floor of the mouth is soft tissue under the tongue.

Injury (trauma) to the teeth or mouth can happen from an accident or sports injury. Dental trauma may not always seem serious. But even minor injuries can cause infection or other problems. The key to saving your smile is getting help right away.

When to go to the emergency room (ER)

Speed is crucial when it comes to most tooth trauma. The faster you're treated, the better the chances your tooth or teeth can be saved. Go to your dentist or the ER at once if:

  • You break one or more teeth.
  • You have one or more teeth knocked out. Put the tooth in a glass of cold milk and bring it with you.
  • A cut on your lip or tongue won't stop bleeding.
  • Your teeth don't fit together correctly when you bite down after an injury.

What to do if your tooth is knocked out

If a permanent tooth is knocked out:

  • Handle the tooth by the top, not the roots.
  • Keep the tooth in a glass of milk or place it in a tooth preservation product that has an ADA Seal of Acceptance. This keeps the tooth from drying out.
  • Get medical help right away.

What to expect in the ER

Your injury will be examined. If you've lost a tooth, a dentist may be able to replant it. For the best results, this is done within an hour after your injury. In some cases, a broken tooth can also be repaired. Cuts and scrapes (abrasions) may be treated with cold packs and dressings. An X-ray will likely be taken to check on the extent of the damage and rule out fracture of the roots of your teeth.

When to call your healthcare provider

Once you're home, call your dentist right away if you:

  • Have a fever of  100.4° F ( 38°C) or higher, or as directed by your dentist
  • Have drainage from around a repaired tooth
  • Have pain that gets worse after 24 hours
  • Have continued bleeding

Cuts in the mouth usually heal on their own in 3–5 days. Diet changes and keeping the area clean can help keep your child more comfortable while the wound gets better.

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Care Instructions

  • For bleeding, put slight pressure on the injury with a cloth or gauze, if you can.
  • For kids 12 months and older, ice pops can help with pain or stop mild bleeding.
  • Remind your child to not pick or chew at any scabs that form.
  • If your child is uncomfortable, a medicine may help. Use these medicines exactly as directed:
    • acetaminophen (such as Tylenol® or a store brand) OR
    • ibuprofen (such as Advil®, Motrin®, or a store brand). Don't give to babies under 6 months old.

Diet, for 3–5 days:

  • Encourage your child to drink. It's OK if your child doesn't want to eat as much as usual.
  • Offer soft foods like oatmeal, mashed potatoes, or applesauce.
  • Avoid: 
    • crunchy foods that scratch or make crumbs (like crackers or pretzels)
    • salty, spicy, or citrus foods that sting the cut (like tomato sauce and oranges)
  • Help your child drink from a cup. Take a break from using straws, thumb-sucking, or using a pacifier. Sucking can make the cut bleed more.
  • Babies can continue to breastfeed or drink from a bottle. Afterward, you might notice minor bleeding, which should stop after a minute or two. For babies older than 12 months, offer an ice pop to help stop the bleeding.

Keep the mouth clean:

  • Give your child sips of water after snacks and meals. 
  • If your child is old enough to rinse and spit, add a small amount of salt to the water (½ tsp. salt in 1 cup water) and rinse after eating. The saltwater can soothe the cut.
  • Brush the teeth as usual. Help your child avoid the area around the cut.

Call Your Healthcare Provider if...

  • The wound is not better in 5 days.
  • The wound or the area around it is red, swollen, or very tender or painful.
  • Pus (yellow-green fluid) drains from the wound.
  • Your child has a fever.
  • Your child can't drink.

Go to the ER if...

  • The cut bleeds and doesn't stop with 10 minutes of putting pressure on it or having your child suck on ice pops or ice chips.
  • Your child isn't drinking at all or seems to be dehydrated.

More to Know

Why do mouth cuts bleed so much? Cuts in the mouth bleed a lot because there are so many blood vessels. This bleeding doesn't mean the cut is bad. In fact, most mouth cuts heal on their own and almost never need to be fixed with stitches.  

How does a mouth cut heal? As the cut heals, it may ooze a small amount of bloody or clear fluid. This fluid dries to form a scab that looks white. After a few days the scab will fall off.

A facial contusion (bruise) happens when a blow to the face injures the skin and soft tissue under it. Small blood vessels can leak blood, causing red or purple marks on the skin. Some contusions are deeper and involve the muscle. Health care providers can't see deep bruises, but they may feel a lump or swelling in the injured area. As contusions heal, they turn different colors before fading away. Most go away after 2 weeks.

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Care Instructions

  • You can give medicine for pain if your health care provider says it's OK. Use these medicines exactly as directed:
    • acetaminophen (such as Tylenol® or a store brand)
    • OR
    • ibuprofen (such as Advil®, Motrin®, or a store brand). Do not give to babies under 6 months old.
  • To reduce swelling from the bruise, for the first 2–3 days: 
    • While your child is awake, apply ice wrapped in a cloth for 15–20 minutes 3–4 times a day. Do not put ice directly on the skin.
    • If your child is old enough to use pillows, use an extra pillow to help raise the head during sleep.
  • Have your child avoid sports or rough play for at least 24 hours and until he or she is feeling better.

Call Your Healthcare Provider if...

Your child:

  • still has the swelling or a bruise after 2 weeks
  • has drainage, warmth, or redness around the bruise
  • was hit in the jaw and has trouble opening or closing the mouth

Go to the ER if...

  • Your child has severe pain.
  • Your child has bleeding in the mouth, nose, or eyes.

More to Know

How do health care providers diagnose a facial contusion? Health care providers carefully examine the injured area and ask about what happened. If the health care provider has concerns about a different type of injury, your child may need to have X-rays.

Can facial contusions be prevented? Yes, avoiding injuries can prevent some facial contusions. Follow these tips:

  • Make sure your child wears the right safety gear such as a helmet, eye guard, mouth guard, or face mask when playing contact sports.
  • Teach your child how to protect the face if involved in a fight.
  • Keep floors free of clutter.
  • Keep cords away from open areas.
  • Keep furniture out of walking paths in the house.
  • Don't use infant walkers