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First aid and treatment for a tongue laceration

A tongue laceration refers to a deep cut or tear in the surface of the tongue. This type of injury can cause significant pain and bleeding.

Tongue lacerations occur when a person accidentally bites their tongue. This may occur: while eating, while playing sports, during sleep, during a seizure, while under dental anesthesia or as a result of an injury, such as a fall or vehicle collision, as a result of self-harm.

In this article, we discuss the symptoms and treatment of tongue lacerations. We also cover first aid and aftercare tips, potential complications, and ways of preventing mouth injuries.


Tongue lacerations can cause significant pain, bleeding, and swelling. They usually occur on the tip or middle section of the tongue. As a person uses their tongue to talk, drink, and swallow food, these symptoms can be very disruptive.

Lacerations at the back of the tongue are less common, as this area is more difficult to reach. However, injuries to this area of the tongue can be more serious due to the presence of a major nerve.

Without treatment, a tongue laceration may become infected. The signs of an infection include: fever, swelling or throbbing, clear or white discharge.

First aid:

If a person cuts their tongue, they should administer first aid treatment as soon as possible. They can do so by following these steps:

washing the hands thoroughly with warm water and soap

rinsing the mouth with clean water to get rid of any debris

applying a gauze pad or clean cloth to the laceration

applying firm, consistent pressure to stop the bleeding while tipping the head forward to avoid swallowing blood

Once the bleeding has stopped, people can try to reduce swelling and pain by either sucking on an ice cube or wrapping it in a clean cloth and applying it to the cut.

Over the next few days, it is important to monitor the laceration for signs of infection, such as pus, fever, or swelling.

The time it takes a tongue laceration to heal varies depending on the severity of the injury. Minor lacerations can heal quickly, whereas severe injuries may take several weeks to heal.

If a doctor closes a laceration with absorbable stitches, these may take 4–8 weeks for the body to absorb. A healthcare professional will need to remove nylon and other nonabsorbable stitches after the wound has closed.

A person can aid the healing process by following their doctor’s aftercare advice. The doctor may recommend:

1. keeping the tongue still as often as possible

2. rinsing the mouth with a saltwater solution after every meal

3. applying a cold compress to the injury site a few times a day

4. taking OTC pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen

5. eating foods that are soft and easy to swallow, such as yogurt, eggs, and cooked vegetables

6. avoiding acidic, spicy, and salty foods

7. avoiding tobacco products and alcohol

by Jamie Eske

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