Kat Bit Her Tongue

Kids jump and fall and run and climb and play – and it’s not unusual for me to get called when one of their tongues happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, caught between chomping teeth. Ouch!

A tongue bite can bleed a lot and look terrible, but still heal on its own fast – or it may need emergency repair.



Things to Consider

The rich blood supply to the tongue enables it’s activity and rapid healing when damaged. Certain bites are most likely to need stitches:

  • Goes through tongue from the top to the bottom
  • Rips an edge of the tongue
  • Splits the front of the tongue
  • Gash longer than 1 cm
  • Missing chunk of tongue
  • Ongoing bleeding

Also be aware of possible problems apart from the bite:

  • A possible foreign body in the mouth
  • Damaged or loose teeth
  • Injured jaw
  • Swelling of the tongue

7 Things to Do

  1. Consider it an emergency if tongue swelling or bleeding might get in the way of breathing or swallowing.
  2. Contact your doctor or dentist right away if it’s a bite that might need stitches, or of the tetanus shots might not be up to date. If you’re not certain about either, get in touch. I would absolutely want my own patients to do this.
  3. I scream for ice cream! Avoid eating or drinking just before or after anesthesia (if needed), but otherwise, a soft diet for the next few days feels better and allows for easier healing. And go for the cold! Sucking on ice chips, popsicles or ice cream can be soothing.
  4. Drink water or rinse with water after eating while there is an open wound.
  5. Consider an oral pain reliever if the child seems uncomfortable.
  6. Revisit within 24-48 hours to reassess.
  7. In the meantime, be alert for signs of infections or other complications, such as fever, swelling, or increasing pain.

Things to Learn

Parents are often amazed to watch how fast a bitten tongue heals. It’s a sped-up, time-lapse, visible example of an important underlying principle: Kids’ bodies are designed to repair damage.

Our job as parents (and doctors) is to remove obstacles to healing, support the healing process as needed, and to provide comfort along the way.

This is true even with emergency care. And remember, it’s not the stitches that heal the tongue; they just hold it in position so it can heal itself.

Published on: May 19, 2013
About the Author
Photo of Alan Greene MD
Dr. Greene is a practicing physician, author, national and international TEDx speaker, and global health advocate. He is a graduate of Princeton University and University of California San Francisco.
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Dr. Alan Greene
i actually had a question rather than a comment . i have a 17 month old that was diagnosed idiopathic neutrapenia and idiopathic thrombocytopenia at age 10 weeks after 19 apnea episodes
yes my sons numbers flucuate from as low as 300anc to as high as 4700 (the high have always been when ill with viral infec, he has only had one bacterial double ear infection..his platelets were 50k and after ivig became normal for 1omonths but after a ugly viral infec his liver spleen both became inflamed we did a BMA and biopsy but said neut were producing but dont know why the degreese in blood stream, platelets were showingnormal development too
but he has 6% Blast cells (im confused one hemo said he is fine another after two more ER visits said they will not stop monitoring for awhile…
what can cause this blood disorders and high blast cells ?
he has always had slight abnormal Red blood cells and as a newborn the ca screen could Not rule out thallesiemia… he has had slight evidence but hemo says oh dont worry
his liver counts constantly flucuate from normal to high also….i do thank u for giving me more insight on what may or may not be happening….
right now i dont know should he keep getting tested or just stop…(im scared if we stop i will not know if anc or plt drop)
oh what is a normal anc ? i have been told three different numbers 1,000-1,500-2,50