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Home > Living Well > Health Library > Mouth and Dental Injuries
Mouth injuries are common, especially in children, and may involve the teeth, jaw, lips, tongue, inner cheeks, gums, roof of the mouth (hard or soft palates), neck, or tonsils. Sometimes mouth injuries look worse than they are. Even a small cut or puncture inside the mouth may bleed a lot because there are many blood vessels in the head and neck area. Home treatment of minor mouth injuries can help stop bleeding, reduce pain, help healing, and prevent infection.
Teeth may be injured during a fall or a sport activity. A tooth may be knocked out (avulsed). You may be able to replace a permanent tooth in its socket (reimplant) if it has been knocked out or torn away from the socket. Immediate first aid and dental care are needed when a permanent tooth has been knocked out.
An injury could crack, chip, or break a tooth, or make a tooth change color. A tooth also may be loose or moved in position (dental luxation) or jammed into the gum (intruded).
Other dental injuries may be caused by grinding your teeth, especially at night. Your teeth may hurt, chip, or become loose. Biting surfaces may become flat and worn down. A broken or loose dental appliance or an orthodontic wire or bracket may poke or rub the inside of your mouth and make your mouth sore.
An injury to your mouth or lips may cause a large, loose flap of tissue or a gaping wound that may need stitches. A smaller wound on the lip may be stitched for cosmetic reasons. If an object, such as a piece of broken tooth or an orthodontic wire, gets stuck in a wound, you may need to have it removed by a doctor. You can also have problems from a piercing in the mouth.
The piece of skin between your lips and gums or under your tongue (frenulum) may tear or rip. Usually this type of injury will heal without stitches. It is generally not a concern unless the tear was caused by physical or sexual abuse.
An injury to the roof of your mouth, the back of your throat, or a tonsil can injure deeper tissues in your head or neck. These injuries can happen when a child falls with a pointed object, such as a pencil or Popsicle stick, in his or her mouth.
Check your symptoms to decide if and when you should see a doctor.
Many things can affect how your body responds to a symptom and what kind of care you may need. These include:
You have answered all the questions. Based on your answers, you may be able to take care of this problem at home.
Symptoms of difficulty breathing can range from mild to severe. For example:
Severe trouble breathing means:
Moderate trouble breathing means:
Mild trouble breathing means:
Symptoms of infection may include:
Certain health conditions and medicines weaken the immune system's ability to fight off infection and illness. Some examples in adults are:
Certain health conditions and medicines weaken the immune system's ability to fight off infection and illness. Some examples in children are:
Pain in adults and older children
Pain in children under 3 years
It can be hard to tell how much pain a baby or toddler is in.
You may need a tetanus shot depending on how dirty the wound is and how long it has been since your last shot.
With severe bleeding, any of these may be true:
With moderate bleeding, any of these may be true:
With mild bleeding, any of these may be true:
If you can get to a dentist's office (or an emergency room) within an hour or two of the injury, the dentist may be able to reimplant the tooth in its socket.
To preserve the tooth until you get to the dentist:
Based on your answers, you may need care right away. The problem is likely to get worse without medical care.
Based on your answers, you need emergency care.
Call 911 or other emergency services now.
Sometimes people don't want to call 911. They may think that their symptoms aren't serious or that they can just get someone else to drive them. Or they might be concerned about the cost. But based on your answers, the safest and quickest way for you to get the care you need is to call 911 for medical transport to the hospital.
Based on your answers, you may need care soon. The problem probably will not get better without medical care.
Based on your answers, the problem may not improve without medical care.
If you need to see a doctor for your injury, call to arrange for your care and ask what steps to take in the meantime.
To reduce pain and promote healing
Try a nonprescription medicine to help treat your pain:
Talk to your child's doctor before switching back and forth between doses of acetaminophen and ibuprofen. When you switch between two medicines, there is a chance your child will get too much medicine.
Be sure to follow these safety tips when you use a nonprescription medicine:
To protect a slightly loose tooth: Teeth that are slightly loose but still in their normal position should tighten up in 1 to 2 weeks.
To remove objects or food stuck between teeth
To remove a very loose baby tooth in a child
Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home treatment:
Many mouth and dental injuries can be prevented by taking the following steps.
More steps to prevent mouth and dental injuries in young children include the following:
To prepare for your appointment, see the topicMaking the Most of Your Appointment.
You can help your doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being ready to answer the following questions:
Current as of:
July 1, 2021
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency MedicineAdam Husney MD - Family MedicineKathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Current as of: July 1, 2021
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
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