Skip to main content

Dental Laceration

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Sep 3, 2023.

What is a dental laceration?

A dental laceration is a cut, gash, or tear in the soft tissue around your teeth. This can include your tongue, gums, lips, or the inside of your cheeks. Usually trauma is the cause of a dental laceration. Some examples include a car accident, a fall, or a sports injury.

Mouth Anatomy

What are the signs and symptoms of a dental laceration?

  • Bleeding from you gums, lips, or mouth
  • Swelling of your tongue, gums. or lips
  • A tooth that is cracked, chipped, loose, out of place, or missing
  • Trouble moving your jaw or mouth

How is a dental laceration diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will examine your mouth and ask how you were injured. He or she will check your laceration for foreign objects, such as a piece of tooth. You may also need the following:

  • An x-ray, ultrasound, CT, or MRI may show foreign objects in your laceration. You may be given contrast liquid to help the injured area show up better in the pictures. Tell the healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast liquid. Do not enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell the healthcare provider if you have any metal in or on your body.

How is a dental laceration treated?

The treatment you will need depends on how large and deep the laceration is, and where it is located. It also depends on whether you have damage to deeper tissues. You may need any of the following:

  • Wound cleaning may be needed to remove dirt or debris. This will decrease the chance of infection. Your healthcare provider may give you medicine to numb the area and decrease pain. He or she may also give you medicine to help you relax.
  • Medicines:
    • Antibiotics help treat or prevent an infection caused by bacteria.
    • Acetaminophen decreases pain and fever. It is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to take and how often to take it. Follow directions. Read the labels of all other medicines you are using to see if they also contain acetaminophen, or ask your doctor or pharmacist. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly.
    • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions. Do not give these medicines to children younger than 6 months without direction from a healthcare provider.
    • Prescription pain medicine may be given. Ask your healthcare provider how to take this medicine safely. Some prescription pain medicines contain acetaminophen. Do not take other medicines that contain acetaminophen without talking to your healthcare provider. Too much acetaminophen may cause liver damage. Prescription pain medicine may cause constipation. Ask your healthcare provider how to prevent or treat constipation.
    • A Td vaccine is a booster shot used to help prevent diphtheria and tetanus. The Td booster may be given to adolescents and adults every 10 years or for certain wounds and injuries.
  • Stitches may be needed to close the laceration in your mouth. Your healthcare provider may need to give you medicine to numb the area. He or she may also give you medicine to help you relax.
  • Surgery may be needed if your laceration needs a lot of cleaning or removal of foreign objects. Surgery may also be needed if you have any broken teeth or a broken jaw.

How can I manage my symptoms?

  • Care for your mouth while you heal. Use a soft toothbrush. Rinse your mouth as directed. Your healthcare provider may recommend a solution that contains chlorhexidine 0.1%. This solution will help prevent an infection caused by bacteria. Rinse 2 times each day for 1 week, or as directed.
  • Eat soft foods or drink liquids for 1 week or as directed. Soft foods and liquids may be easier to eat until your injury heals. Soft foods include applesauce, pudding, mashed potatoes, gelatin, and ice cream.
  • Apply ice on your jaw or cheek for 15 to 20 minutes every hour or as directed. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover it with a towel before you apply it. Ice helps prevent tissue damage and decreases swelling and pain.
  • Keep any soft tissue wounds clean. Use prescribed mouthwash as directed. You can also gargle with a salt water solution. To make the solution, mix 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 cup of warm water. Ask your healthcare provider for more information on how to clean your wounds.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • You are bleeding more than you were told to expect, even when you apply pressure.
  • You have sudden numbness in your face.
  • You have severe pain.
  • You cannot move part of your face.

When should I call my doctor or dentist?

  • You have a fever or chills.
  • You have increased swelling, redness, or bleeding.
  • You have yellow or green drainage coming out of the surgery area.
  • You have pain that does not go away, or is not helped by pain medicines.
  • You have trouble opening your mouth or chewing.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© Copyright Merative 2023 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.