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Is Accidentally Biting Your Tongue Dangerous?

We all know that accidentally biting your tongue can be painful, but can it actually be dangerous?

There’s a reason dentists caution against chewing, eating, or biting down for the first few hours after your mouth has been numbed for dental work. Accidentally biting your tongue is extremely common, and in most cases it heals easily on its own. Sometimes, however, bites can be much more serious and may require medical attention. 


Accidental tongue biting can happen for a variety of reasons. Some of the most common are:

  • Car accidents
  • Numbness from dental work
  • Falling
  • Sports injuries
  • Sleep spasms
  • Seizures

Children are more likely to bite their tongue than adults due to their high levels of activity and their developing muscle control. 


A bite on the tongue does not usually require medical diagnosis or treatment. Usually the bite will heal on its own within a few days. In rare cases, bites might be more serious and require medical attention.

Depending on the severity of the injury, a doctor will likely ask you to rinse your mouth with water to make it easier to see the bite. If swelling is extensive, ice wrapped in a cloth can help reduce swelling to make way for proper treatment. A recent study recommends stitches for tongue bites in children over 2 cm long, unless they are near the tip of the tongue. 

When to Seek Help

It can be difficult to know when a tongue bite is more serious because even minor tongue injuries bleed excessively. In rare cases an untreated bite in the tongue may lead to infection. If you experience any of the following signs of an infection, seek medical attention right away:

  • Fever
  • Excessive swelling or throbbing at site of injury
  • Clear or white discharge from the wound

Even when not infected, some bites need help to heal properly. If you notice any of the following with your tongue injury, you should see a professional:

  • Bleeding that does not stop after applying pressure 
  • Bleeding that stops and then starts again
  • A bite that has completely pierced or severed the tongue
  • A large, open wound
  • Difficulty opening your mouth, breathing or swallowing
  • Pain that doesn’t respond to an over-the-counter pain medication

The human jaw is very powerful, and accidentally biting your tongue (especially when your mouth is numbed) can lead to serious injury. A tongue that is severely injured or severed needs immediate attention. Professionals recommend seeking treatment within 8 hours of the injury to avoid permanent damage.  

Oral & Facial Surgery of Utah Can Help

Accidentally biting your tongue can be painful, and in some cases it can be dangerous. Oral & Facial Surgery of Utah can help! Our board-certified oral surgeons are experienced in treating injuries, defects and diseases of the head, neck, jaw and general facial regions. We handle everything from the routine to the extreme. We have offices in Cottonwood Heights, South Jordan, and Tooele in Utah. Contact us today for your free consultation!

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