Tongue Laceration

A tongue laceration is a cut on the tongue. Over the next 1 to 2 days, you will see that the wound edges appear gray in color. The edges may appear ragged and slightly spread apart. Because of all the normal bacteria in the mouth, these wounds are contaminated, but this is not an infection that needs antibiotics. Most wounds heal with no problems despite their appearance.

TREATMENT

Most tongue lacerations only go partway through the tongue. This type of injury generally does not need stitches (sutures). More serious injuries penetrate the tongue deeper and may need sutures and follow-up care.

HOME CARE INSTRUCTIONS

  • Cover an ice cube in a thin cloth and hold it directly on the cut for 1 to 3 minutes at a time, 6 to 10 times per day. Do this for 1 day. This can help reduce pain and swelling.

  • After the first day, rinse the mouth with a warm, saltwater wash 4 to 6 times  per day, or as your caregiver instructs.

  • If there are no injuries to your teeth, continue oral hygiene and gentle brushing. Do not brush loose or broken teeth or teeth that have been put back into normal position by your caregiver.

  • Large or complex cuts may require antibiotics to prevent infection. Take your antibiotics as directed. Finish them even if you start to feel better.

  • Do not eat or drink hot food or beverages while your mouth is still numb.

  • Do not eat hard foods (such as apples) or chewy foods (such as broiled meat) until your caregiver advises you otherwise.

  • If your caregiver used sutures to repair the cut, do not pull or chew them. If you do this, they will gradually loosen and may become untied.

  • Only take over-the-counter or prescription medicines for pain, discomfort, or fever as directed by your caregiver.

You may need a tetanus shot if:

  • You cannot remember when you had your last tetanus shot.

  • You have never had a tetanus shot.

If you get a tetanus shot, your arm may swell, get red, and feel warm to the touch. This is common and not a problem. If you need a tetanus shot and you choose not to have one, there is a rare chance of getting tetanus. Sickness from tetanus can be serious.

SEEK IMMEDIATE MEDICAL CARE IF:

  • You develop swelling or increasing pain in the wound or in other parts of your mouth or face.

  • You see pus coming from the wound. Some drainage in the mouth is normal.

  • You have a fever.

  • You notice the edges of the wound break open after sutures have been removed.

  • You develop bleeding that does not stop when you apply pressure.

  • You develop any breathing problems.

MAKE SURE YOU:

  • Understand these instructions.

  • Will watch your condition.

  • Will get help right away if you are not doing well or get worse.