A Deep Lip Cut Needs a Doctor’s Care

Wednesday, November 1st, 2006
|CWK Executive Producer

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“Lip and mouth lacerations are a bit tricky. The vast majority of them really don’t need any kind of intervention at all – whether it involves the lip or the tongue or the gums or the insides of the cheeks. But on certain occasions those injuries are much more involved and can be actually much more worrisome than might readily be apparent.”

– Michael Ziegler, M.D., Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta

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They are painful and scary-looking, because they bleed so much. But cut lips in children are common and usually treatable at home.

Quinte’s cut, however, is a different story. The nine-year-old was roughhousing with a friend when his mouth ran into the friend’s head. The result: a bloody lip.

“The problem for Quinte is that the laceration went deep into the lip, and actually involved the muscular layers,” says Dr. Michael Ziegler with Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

Quinte will need two stitches. In a way, he is lucky the cut is located where it is.

“Fortunately the lip doesn’t scar the way other skin does,” says Dr. Ziegler. “So once that has healed, you really will very unlikely see any evidence that he had a cut there.”

After a shot of anesthetic, the wound is cleaned and stitched. The irony is that what makes a cut lip look so bad is what also makes it heal well.

“One thing that allows injuries around the mouth to heal so fast is that all those structures are very vascular,” says the doctor. “They have great blood supply. As a result, they bleed a lot.”

Quinte’s mouth will hurt a little for a day or two, but otherwise he’s fine. And in a few weeks his body will absorb the stitches.

The doctor says most of the time you can tell if your child’s cut lip is superficial, and treatable with ice and sympathy.

“But if you have any question,” he says, “if you think, ‘ah, it’s deeper than I feel comfortable with’, or if [you] think it’s large enough to cause problems with the tongue or certainly deeper back in the mouth, all those lacerations should be looked at.”

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Tips for Parents
  • Contact your doctor as soon as possible if minor bleeding from your child’s cut will not stop after ten minutes of direct pressure; if the cut is split open or gaping, if the cut goes through the border where the lip meets the skin; if it causes difficulty swallowing; if the mouth looks infected or if the cut has been caused by a pencil or another long object placed in the mouth. Always seek medical advice if you think your child has been serious injury. (Children’s Hospital and Regional Medical Center, Seattle, Washington)
  • For a minor lip injury: If your child’s lip is cut on the inside or on tissue that connects it to the gum, press the bleeding site against the teeth for ten minutes. Once the bleeding stops, do not pull the lip back out again – or the bleeding will resume. Put a piece of ice or a Popsicle on the injured area for 20 minutes. Give your child acetaminophen or ibuprofen for any pain. Avoid any salty or citrus foods – they might sting. Rinse the wound with warm water right after meals. Minor lip injuries inside the mouth usually heal by themselves in three or four days. (Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital)
  • Have your child wear a mouth guard for recreational and athletic activities – especially when there is the possibility of contact with another player, a piece of equipment or the ground. (Boston Children’s Hospital)

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  • National Library of Medicine/ National Institutes of Health
  • American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery
  • National Maternal and Child Oral Health Resource Center

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