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Child poking out their tongue.

Child poking out their tongue.
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Mouth and tongue cuts

6-minute read

Key facts

  • Cuts to the mouth or tongue commonly happen after a fall or knock to the head.
  • If you or someone else has bleeding from the mouth after a fall or injury, check for other injuries.
  • Apply firm pressure to a cut on the mouth or tongue to help stop the bleeding.
  • Most mouth and tongue cuts heal on their own without stitches.
  • Use saltwater rinses and cold compresses to relieve mouth pain and swelling and to reduce the chance of infection.

When might I get a cut on my mouth or tongue?

You might get a cut on your mouth or tongue after a knock to the mouth or a fall. You might also cause an injury by accidentally biting your lips, tongue or cheeks while eating.

If you have braces or other dental devices in your mouth, you might get a scratch or cut from wire rubbing against your cheeks or gums.

What are the signs of a mouth or tongue cut?

Signs of a mouth or tongue cut might include:

  • bleeding from the mouth, lips or gums
  • pain in or around the mouth
  • swelling of the lips or jaw

What should I do if I get a cut on my mouth or tongue?

If you or someone else is bleeding from their mouth after an injury, make sure that they are still breathing comfortably. Sometimes, mouth swelling or extensive bleeding can make breathing difficult.

If you or someone else is having trouble breathing, call triple-zero (000) and ask for an ambulance.

If someone is bleeding from their mouth after an injury, it’s also a good idea to check for other injuries. Mouth injuries resulting from a knock to the head or fall may be associated with a head injury or damage to teeth.

Here is some first-aid advice to follow if you or someone else has a mouth injury:

  • Apply direct pressure to the wound, if possible, using a clean cloth or pad. You may need to hold the dressing in place as it can be difficult to secure dressings to the mouth area. If you are helping someone else, it’s best to wear disposable gloves.
  • If the bleeding is very heavy, it may seep through the dressing. You may need to use a second dressing to cover the first one.
  • If the bleeding continues through both dressings and pads, don't stop applying pressure — remove only the second dressing and apply a new one. Bleeding should stop within 10 minutes of applying continuous pressure.
  • Try not to swallow the blood from the wound as this may make you vomit or nauseous (feel sick). Try to spit the blood out.
  • If the wound is not bleeding, bathe it with clean water.
  • If you are in pain, get advice from a doctor or pharmacist on pain relief medicines you can take.

If your wound was caused by a dirty object (such as a rusty nail or wire), you should ask your doctor if you need a tetanus booster immunisation.

When should I call an ambulance?

Call an ambulance if you or someone else has bleeding from the mouth that doesn’t stop after 10 minutes.

If you are looking after someone with a serious injury, keep a close watch on them. Call triple zero (000) and ask for an ambulance, if you notice that person:

  • is pale
  • has cold or clammy skin
  • has fast or shallow breathing
  • has a fast or weak pulse

Will I need stitches for a cut on my mouth or tongue?

Most cuts on the tongue or palate heal on their own and do not need stitches, unless they are very large or don’t stop bleeding on their own.

Cuts on the inside of the lip don’t usually need stitches.

If you have a cut on the outside of your lip, you may need stitches. Visit your doctor or local emergency department for an assessment.

To find your nearest hospital emergency department or after-hours medical service, use the healthdirect Service Finder tool.

FIND A HEALTH SERVICE — The Service Finder can help you find doctors, pharmacies, hospitals and other health services.

When should I see a doctor about a cut on my mouth or tongue?

Most minor cuts to the mouth or tongue heal quickly with no specific treatment.

You should see your doctor if:

  • your mouth or tongue becomes very swollen or painful
  • you notice discharge coming from the wound
  • you develop a fever
  • you begin to feel unwell

These may be signs of an infection that needs treatment with antibiotics.

How can I relieve pain from a mouth or tongue cut?

You can rinse your mouth with warm salt water to relieve pain and reduce the chance of infection. To make a saltwater rinse, dissolve half a teaspoon of salt in a cup of lukewarm water.

You can also apply an ice pack or cold compress to reduce swelling and relieve pain.

Simple pain relievers such as paracetamol can also be helpful.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: May 2022

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