Mouth injuries and dislodged teeth

  • A fall or knock to the face can result in a cut to the lips or tongue, or a dislodged tooth. Mouth injuries can result in heavy bleeding or swelling, which require urgent medical treatment as there is an increased risk of a blocked airway.

    If a tooth is knocked out in a collision or fall, knowing the correct first aid may save the tooth.

    Signs and symptoms of a mouth injury

    If your child has had a fall or knock to the face, they may have:

    • bleeding from the mouth, lips or gums
    • pain around the mouth
    • loose or broken tooth (from impact)
    • swelling of lips or jaw
    • inability to open or close their mouth/jaw.

    First aid

    Bleeding or swollen lips, tongue or gums

    First, always check your child’s airway.

    Call an ambulance immediately if:

    • your child is having trouble breathing or
    • there is a lot of blood going down the throat, or if there is swelling of the tongue or throat that could affect breathing – turn your child on their side in a recovery position while you wait for the ambulance.

    If your child is breathing OK and bleeding is slow:

    • Help your child become as comfortable as possible.
    • Use a sterile dressing or clean towel (or for cut lips, a damp tissue) to apply firm but gentle pressure to the bleeding.
    • Take your child to your GP or nearest hospital emergency department.

    Dislodged teeth

    If a tooth has come out, and you can locate it, hold it by the crown (the visible part when the tooth is in the mouth) and avoid touching the root. The root can become damaged easily.

    • If your child is 10 years or older: if the tooth is very dirty, rinse it quickly in warm water. Try and replace the tooth back in the gum to help keep the root alive, making sure the tooth is facing the right way. Use a folded piece of aluminium foil to hold the tooth in place, ensuring the foil is large enough to cover the teeth on either side. Have your child gently bite down on the foil. Take your child to a dentist or hospital immediately, to maximise chances of saving the tooth.
    • If your child is younger than 10 years or you can’t get the tooth back in: store the tooth in a clean container with some milk, or in your child’s saliva if they have a milk allergy. Take your child to a dentist or hospital immediately in order to maximise chances of saving the tooth. Note that baby teeth that have been knocked out won’t be reimplanted.

    If your child’s tooth has come out and you can’t locate it, it is important to have your child reviewed by a doctor, in case the dislodged tooth was inhaled.

    Broken teeth

    If your child has broken a tooth, make an urgent appointment with your local dentist. If there are sharp parts exposed, encourage your child to bite down gently on a damp cloth, to avoid cutting their lips or tongue.

    Key points to remember

    • Call an ambulance if your child is having trouble breathing, or if there is a lot of blood or swelling in the mouth.
    • Apply firm but gentle pressure to bleeding.
    • If possible, try to replace a dislodged tooth, or keep it in a little milk. Take your child to a dentist or hospital immediately.

    For more information

    Common questions our doctors are asked

    I couldn’t get my child’s tooth back in. How long do we have to get it back in before a tooth can’t be saved?

    If you can get to a dentist or hospital and the tooth can be put back in within 30 minutes, then there is a good chance the tooth can be saved. After 30 minutes the chances of a successful reimplantation are reduced significantly. However, it is still worth trying up to three hours after the tooth was knocked out, as the tooth may be still be able to be implanted and splinted. 

    Can I use teething gel to help numb the pain in my child’s mouth after a mouth injury?

    Teething gel is not likely to be effective enough as pain relief for a mouth injury. Local anaesthetic gels can be prescribed by your child’s doctor or dentist. Simple pain relief medicines (e.g. paracetamol, ibuprofen) can also be used safely.


    Developed by The Royal Children's Hospital Community Information and Dentistry departments. We acknowledge the input of RCH consumers and carers.

    Reviewed October 2018.

    Kids Health Info is supported by The Royal Children’s Hospital Foundation. To donate, visit www.rchfoundation.org.au.

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Disclaimer
This information is intended to support, not replace, discussion with your doctor or healthcare professionals. The authors of these consumer health information handouts have made a considerable effort to ensure the information is accurate, up to date and easy to understand. The Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne accepts no responsibility for any inaccuracies, information perceived as misleading, or the success of any treatment regimen detailed in these handouts. Information contained in the handouts is updated regularly and therefore you should always check you are referring to the most recent version of the handout. The onus is on you, the user, to ensure that you have downloaded the most up-to-date version of a consumer health information handout.