Injuries to Skin, Lips, Gums and Soft Tissue

At home, you can clean injured skin surfaces with mild soapy water and a soft, clean cloth. To clean cuts inside the mouth, rinse with salt water or a hydrogen peroxide solution (one part hydrogen peroxide and one part water). Be sure not to swallow this peroxide rinse. However, do not be concerned if it foams. This is what the rinse normally does when it contacts mouth tissue.

If your lip is swollen or bruised, apply a cold compress. If there is bleeding, apply pressure with a clean cloth for at least five minutes. Using ice can help limit swelling, bleeding and discomfort. Wrap crushed ice in clean gauze or a clean piece of cloth and hold it on the area affected.

Certain injuries will require treatment by an oral surgeon or plastic surgeon. It is particularly important to have an experienced surgeon stitch cuts that cross the vermilion border. This is the line that forms the junction between the skin and the fleshy part of the lip. Experience is required to make sure this boundary heals correctly. Even a small irregularity will remain noticeable.

The doctor will first thoroughly clean the wound with lots of saline or a hydrogen peroxide rinse. Cleaning removes bacteria as well as foreign matter such as dirt that might have entered the wound. A betadine solution will then be applied to the area to disinfect it. Puncture wounds to the lip will then be closed from the inside out. Stitching all layers reduces the chance of scarring..

Small puncture wounds in the tongue usually heal without any treatment other than cleansing with antiseptic or hydrogen peroxide rinses. Large cuts may require stitches.

The mouth contains many bacteria. For this reason, an antibiotic often is prescribed after a cut to the lip or tongue to prevent infection.

When To Call a Professional

Seek medical care if:

  • Bleeding cannot be controlled with pressure and a cold compress
  • You have a deep cut
  • A cut crosses the border between the lip and facial skin
  • The lip is punctured
  • An infection develops after an injury — Signs of any infection usually will be evident about four days after the injury. Signs include: Redness, Tenderness, Fever, drainage of pus and swelling.