Injuries to the mouth are common for active kids. Usually mouth injuries, even ones that look deep, don’t need stitches. However, it can be hard to tell the full extent of injuries in the mouth because the tissue is stretchy and can hide deeper wounds. Care for mouth injuries depends on what part of the mouth is hurt.
If the tooth has fallen out: If it’s a baby, or primary tooth, there’s nothing to do or worry about as long as it doesn’t seem like your child has aspirated the tooth (the tooth goes down into the airway).
If your child loses a tooth and it stays in their mouth and they begin to cough, wheeze or choke, administer basic first aid and call 911 or bring your child immediately to the emergency room.
If it’s an adult tooth: If you feel comfortable, clean the tooth very gently with water or Hank’s Balanced Salt Solution (available as “save-a-tooth” and is typically carried by coaches or athletic trainers). After gentle cleaning, reimplant the tooth. If you don’t feel comfortable with reimplantation, place the tooth in a bottle of Hank’s Balanced Salt Solution or cold milk. If neither of these options are available, have the child carry the tooth between their gum and cheek as long as they’re old enough not to choke on it. A final option (if none of the other three are available) is to place the tooth in cold water (though water is very damaging to teeth, but is preferable to letting the tooth dry out). See your dentist the same day for reimplantation of the tooth.
If the teeth are pushed inward or outward, it’s important to see your provider same day to make sure the teeth are still doing okay. Minor fractures of the tooth (without any exposed yellow pulp) can either be watched at home or be evaluated by your provider or dentist on a non-emergent basis.
If there’s a significant break in the tooth with exposed pulp, a dental appointment (or ER visit with a consultation from an emergency dentist) would be recommended to try and salvage the tooth and prevent infection.
Cuts inside the mouth rarely need stitches. If your child has a cut in their mouth, have them gently rinse with room temperature water. Unless you think the size of the cut is large enough to fit a kernel of corn, you can generally monitor at home. If it’s this size or larger, they should be seen same day by a provider.
This symptom guide is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you think your child may have a life threatening emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
Our Panic Free Symptom Checker for Kids is written and reviewed by expert physicians and medical professionals. Simply choose a symptom and answer a few questions to find a recommendation for your child’s issue.