It can be a scary sight. Your child is crying and holding his mouth, and you can see where the lip is bloodied. Whether he bit or bumped his lip, the result is the same. He's in pain and he needs you to know what to do.
Fortunately, mouth injuries in children usually look worse than they are. The mouth has a lot of blood vessels, so even a small cut may bleed a lot. Coast Dental general dentist Dr. Jeffrey May has five children who have had their share of playtime mishaps.
"Normally with kids, it's from falling down on the playground. One of my twins will be running and will look back, laughing, and run into something," Dr. May said. Another common problem: the child bites his lip or cheek while still numb from a topical anesthetic, like the kind applied while filling a cavity.
Some mouth injuries are from things you may not expect. "I had a child come in recently who had a scrape down his gums - from eating a chip," said Dr. May. "Popcorn can also cause problems. That little, amber-colored film on the kernel can get stuck along the edge of the tooth and the gum line and cause a localized infection."
Here are some tips for treating mouth injuries:
Clean the area. If the split lip is from a fall, a warm, saltwater rinse will help flush out any dirt and debris. Don't use peroxide, though; kids may try to swallow it.
Stop the bleeding. Apply gentle pressure to the area with a clean, damp cloth for up to 10 minutes.
Apply ice. Apply an ice pack or give an older child a popsicle to help numb the area and reduce swelling.
See a dentist if needed. If the mouth injury is from a fall or an accident, it's best to call your dentist. "I had a patient a few years ago who had fallen off a tire swing," said Dr. May. "It was cut down to the jaw bone and it was packed with dirt. We were able to flush out all the sand and dirt and I put in some stitches and it healed well."
Monitor for improvement. A bitten lip or cut usually takes about a week to heal. During this time, avoid giving the child anything salty or acidic, like orange juice, because it may cause the injury to sting. It's also a good idea to rinse with water after meals to keep food from irritating the cut. If it hasn't healed after 10 days, call your dentist.
Jeffrey May, DMD, provides general dentistry services to patients 8 and up. Services include bone grafting, laser crown lengthening, dental implant restorations, dental implants, extractions, gummy smile treatment, veneers, Lumineers, periodontal disease management, ridge augmentation, root canal therapy and retreatment, soft tissue graft, and laser therapy. Dr. May has extensive training in cosmetic dentistry and in the advanced use of digital imaging, which enables patients to preview their smile prior to the start of their treatment. He is also skilled in the use of digital x-ray and intra-oral imaging. Dr. May is fluent in English and Spanish and has traveled to the Dominican Republic to provide free dental care on mission trips. He practices at Coast Dental Spring Hill, 13146 Cortez Boulevard in Brooksville, FL. The phone number is (352) 596-8199.
To find another Coast Dental location in Florida, Georgia or Texas, call 1-800-32-SMILE.
Written by: Beth Gaddis
Reviewed by: Jeffrey May, DMD
Reviewed by: Cindy Roark, DMD