When to Go to the ER for Mouth Injuries in Children

Children's Health

Jun 3, 2020


Having kids means being on high alert all the time. Why is the house so quiet? What are they up to now? Where did they hide the broom? While being mischievous and adventurous is part of childhood, such antics could also land your kids in the emergency room. What are the most common types of injuries seen in children who visit the ER? And, can some of them be treated at home?

4 Most Common Mouth Injuries in Children

1. Lips

These injuries are very common in children — and, since there are so many blood vessels in the area, they tend to look worse than they are. However, you should always monitor them to prevent infections.

2. Tongue

These can be due to your child biting their tongue while playing or during a fall. If the cut is minor, it will heal on its own. But, if you can see a visible gash and/or a lot of blood, your child will likely need stitches.

3. Teeth

These often happen during falls or playing contact sports. Minimize the risk by getting your child a mouthguard. However, if your child chips or loses a tooth, call their dentist right away.

4. Puncture Wounds

These often happen when a child is running with a pointed object — such as a pen, long toy, or toothbrush. They may cause serious injury on the palate or the back of the throat.

Home Treatment for Minor Mouth Injuries

If the injury is relatively minor, there are things you can do at home to treat it. Also, make sure to monitor the injury to verify whether healing is occurring or whether the injury is getting worse. You may also want to call your child’s pediatrician to describe the injury to ensure home care remedies are adequate.

Once you have your bases covered,  provide comfort for your child. Help them calm down by letting them know you’re there to help them and will make things better. Try not to act too alarmed. This could scare your child. Then, try some of the following:

If the Injury is Outside the Mouth

1. Apply Pressure

If there’s bleeding, apply pressure with a clean cloth or bandage for several minutes. Wash your hands before doing so.

2. Wash the Injury

Since the injury is outside the mouth, wash it with soap and water. Do so gently and let the water run over the injury for a couple of seconds. Do not scrub.

3. Keep the Injury Clean

After washing it, pat it dry and cover with a topical antibacterial ointment. Do not blow on it to avoid spreading germs into it.

4. Use Cold Compresses

Applying ice to the injured area can help reduce pain and swelling. Do so for 10 minutes at a time, every one to two hours.

If the Injury is Inside the Mouth

1. Rinse the Injury

Have your child rinse their mouth with cold water for several minutes to remove any dirt and foreign particles. They may need to use a toothbrush if dirt has become wedged between their teeth.

2. Give Your Child Something Cold

Provide them with an ice pop or crushed ice to reduce pain and swelling around the injury. If you don’t have any cold treats in the house, give them an ice pack to use to relieve discomfort.

3. Keep the Area Clean

Have your child rinse and gargle with salt water or hydrogen peroxide after every meal. This helps to reduce bacteria and food that can find its way into the wound.

4. Be Mindful of Meals

Do not feed them anything that may cause the injury to sting — such as citrus or spicy foods. You may also want to avoid pointy foods like chips.

When to Go to the ER for a Mouth Injury in a Child

There are certain instances when you should bypass trying to provide relief at home. Take your child to an emergency room immediately if the injury results in any of the following:

  • Bleeding that won’t stop after 10 minutes of applying pressure
  • Large cuts that may require stitches
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Severe pain
  • There are signs of infection — such as swelling, pus, warmth, and/or fever
  • Can’t fully open or close the mouth
  • Trouble swallowing

24-Hour Emergency Room Services in Colorado Springs and Texas

If you or a loved one have a medical emergency, we can provide the care you need. If you have questions or need immediate treatment, your nearest Complete Care location is ready to help, no matter the time of day or night. We offer a variety of services to help you and your family in your time of need. No appointments are necessary.

Find the Complete Care location nearest you.