Bit Tongue – Pain Treatment and Prevention

Bit Tongue – Pain Treatment and Prevention
profile picture of Dr. Jay Khorsandi, DDS
Bit Tongue – Pain Treatment and PreventionClinical Content Reviewed by Dr. Jay Khorsandi, DDS
Last Modified:

Clinical content featured by Byte is reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to help ensure clinical accuracy.

We follow strict sourcing guidelines and each page contains a full list of sources for complete transparency.

Table of Contents

  1. Why Do People Bite Their Tongue?
  2. First Aid
  3. Serious Injuries
  4. How Long to Heal?
  5. Repeatedly Biting
  6. Prevention
  7. References

A tongue bite is rarely life-threatening, but it is a painful injury that can irritate you and affect your normal routines until it heals.

When you accidentally bite your tongue—no one is doing this on purpose—you must deal with instant pain and blood. You want both to stop as soon as possible.

For most people, a bit tongue happens a couple times a year. Others can deal with this more regularly. People who bite their tongue a lot should go beyond the initial steps of halting the bleeding and dealing with the pain. Their solution could be as simple as wearing mouth guard or tongue protector at night.

home remedies for a minor tongue bite

Why Do People Bite Their Tongue?

Bites can occur accidentally as you eat, sleep, talk or fall as a result of an accident during physical activity. It can also happen if you are in a bicycle or car accident.

If you bite your tongue once in a while, you might be able to resolve any pain and bleeding with time and simple self-care remedies at home. However, a deep tongue wound requires medical attention if it fails to heal on its own.

If tongue bites happen to you a lot, it may be time to stop considering these bites as accidents and look at a deeper problem to fix. You may have an underlying medical or dental issue (seizures or a misaligned bite, for example), and you should consider consulting a doctor or dentist for their opinions about the cause and suggestions for treatment.

Using First Aid to Treat Tongue Bites

Cuts to the tongue can result in a range of issues you will need to deal with, starting with bleeding and pain and ending with uncontrolled bleeding and infections. Included in that range are:

  • Bleeding: A fresh tongue cut can bleed for several hours, but this is generally controllable. However, there are rare cases of excess, uncontrollable bleeding, especially from deep wounds.
  • Pain and soreness: This is usually the immediate effect of a bit tongue. Eating salty or spicy foods can aggravate the pain.
  • Swelling: Inflammation around the wound can occur.
  • Infection: This is a rare outcome that may be accompanied by fever and extreme pain.
  • Canker sores: Even if they are small, these lesions may be so painful that they make it difficult to talk, eat, drink or swallow.

You can ease pain and accelerate healing from a minor tongue bit with a few immediate self-care actions.

  • Stop the bleeding with a sterile gauze pad. Not everyone has these on hand, and if you don’t, use a paper towel or a clean rag or wash cloth. Put pressure on the bitten area for at least five minutes before checking to see if you’re still bleeding.
  • Control the swelling. You will want an ice pack, ice in a Ziplock bag or ice wrapped by a moist hand towel or wash cloth to apply to the tongue.
  • Ease the pain. Any use of ice will help with immediate pain. You can rotate use of ice packs for several hours, alternating between 20 minutes on, 20 minutes off. If you tolerate pain medication well, take Tylenol and Advil or Motrin to help with both pain and swelling.

Treatment for Serious Injuries

If the above self-care measures do not, especially if you can’t get the bleeding to slow down or stop, get help from a medical professional. Get to an urgent care facility.

Situations that warrant medical attention include:

  • Excess bleeding: If you sunk your tooth too deep into the tongue, it may be difficult to control the bleeding. A gaping wound may have a similar outcome, requiring surgical sutures to stop the bleeding and facilitate healing.
  • Severe pain: Your doctor may prescribe mild/moderate pain relievers like oral acetaminophen.
  • Increasing swelling: Inflammation worsens your pain, and you may need to take an anti-inflammatory painkiller like ibuprofen to manage the problem.
  • Signs of infection: In very rare cases, a tongue injury may get infected. Fever and swelling two days after the cut may indicate this. Your dentist may prescribe antibiotics to fight any infection.
  • Canker sores: These should naturally go away in one or two weeks without treatment. If they do not, you should have them looked at by your dentist. Applying a topical solution to the bite site, such as a mouth rinse, can help control the pain and speed up healing.

How Long Will It Take to Heal?

The length of time it takes a tongue bite to heal depends on the severity of the bite. A simple nick will bleed only for a few minutes without any compression, will swell for a day or so, and will be forgotten soon thereafter.

A significant bite requires more care: compression, ice and possible pain meds. Now we’re talking about two to five days of care.

Healing time for a serious bite, such as something that comes from being involved in a car accident or sports injury, can take weeks or longer. That depends if stitches are needed to close the laceration and if doctors begin a regiment of antibiotics to ward off infection.

Why You Repeatedly Bite Your Tongue

Biting your tongue frequently can make life miserable and expose you to bigger health and treatment challenges. If this problem recurs consistently, consider seeing your personal doctor or dentist to get their opinion and recommendations.

Repeated tongue biting can exacerbate otherwise mild oral issues. If you think you might be prone to frequent tongue injury, do not hesitate to see your dentist. Medical professionals will dial in on root causes, such as an abnormal bite, seizures, sleep issues or other physical or lifestyle characteristics that are specific to you.

Prevention

Preventing regular tongue-biting will require action on your part. Either you will need to do some research about when and why you constantly are dealing with this or you’ll need medical help and advice.

Chances are you’re dealing with one of causes listed earlier. Some ways to tackle those causes are to use a mouth guard, wear a tongue protector, take seizure medication or repair a structural issue with your jaw or mouth.

Mouth Guard
If a dentist sees you have an abnormal bite, either from a natural bite or from an injury, you may wear a fitted mouth guard. These are for protecting your mouth from injury when participating in a sport or exercise. Observe good mouth guard hygiene, including brushing and rinsing the device with cold water after use.
Tongue Protector
Other people accidentally bite their tongues while they sleep. In these cases, they may need to wear a tongue protector70005-9/pdf) at night. This removable oral device may help people that bite their tongue while sleeping due to teeth grinding or other disorders. Its purpose is to secure the tongue in its natural position in the mouth.
Seizure Medication
Some people don’t realize it at the time, but they bite their tongue during a seizure and will need seizure treatment If someone’s seizure disorder is manageable with anticonvulsant drugs, they can see a dentist for help preventing tongue-biting.
Corrective Dental Procedures
It would be best to have an orthodontist examine your mouth for dental issues that may contribute to your tongue-biting. Some people with accidental mouth injuries may have jaw misalignment, unfitting dentures, or other oral health issues. Correcting these problems can minimize the occurrence of bit tongues.
Disclaimer: This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to serve as dental or other professional health advice and is not intended to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any condition or symptom. You should consult a dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

TOP