Updated on February 7, 2024
6 min read

What Are Proven Methods to Heal a Bitten Tongue Faster?

NewMouth is reader supported. We may earn a commission if you purchase something using one of our links. Advertising Disclosure.

Biting your tongue on accident can be uncomfortable, but it’s not uncommon. Most people bite their tongues occasionally. It most frequently occurs while eating or talking, though some people may bite their tongues during sleep.

Most minor tongue bites heal independently within a few days to a week. More severe bites, however, may take longer to heal and require medical attention, including stitches.

Home treatments for a minor to moderate tongue bite include over-the-counter pain relievers, cold compresses, and saltwater rinses.

What to Do if You Bite Your Tongue

If you bite your tongue hard enough to bleed, follow these steps immediately:

  1. Wash your hands with soap and warm water before touching your mouth.
  2. Rinse your mouth gently with water.
  3. Apply pressure to the bite wound, using a piece of gauze or clean cloth, until the bleeding stops.
  4. Use a cold pack or ice cubes to lower any swelling.
  5. Call your doctor if you’re concerned about the wound.

4 Ways to Heal a Bitten Tongue Faster

A bitten tongue generally heals within a week, but you can speed up the healing process with a few home treatments.

1. Saltwater Rinses

You can rinse your mouth with saltwater to soothe discomfort and clean the wound. Saltwater may also make your bite heal faster.4

Simply mix salt with warm water and rinse your mouth like you would with mouthwash. Alternatively, apply it to a cotton ball and swab the area.

2. Ice or Cold Compresses

Pressing a cold pack to a cut, including one on the tongue, can reduce bleeding and swelling.5 It also numbs the area, which may temporarily relieve pain and discomfort.

To create a cold compress, dampen a towel with cool water and apply it to your tongue injury. You can also wrap an ice pack in a towel or suck on ice cubes.

3. Over-the-Counter Pain Relief

Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen can also help reduce swelling and bleeding when you’ve bitten your tongue. 

Take any medications directed to relieve your symptoms while your tongue heals.

4. Diet Changes

Cuts on your tongue and inside of the mouth are sensitive. Avoiding foods that might irritate a tongue bite can help you heal faster. 

Try to avoid acidic and spicy foods while your tongue heals. It may also help to stick to soft foods that won’t irritate the cut.

5. Good Oral Hygiene

Maintaining good oral hygiene practices will keep your mouth clean and prevent infection. Brush your teeth, floss if you can, and rinse your mouth. 

Take care to brush gently during this time to avoid disturbing the cut. 

Signs to Seek Medical Help for a Bitten Tongue

While most tongue injuries heal independently, you should seek medical treatment if:

  • Your tongue doesn’t heal within a week
  • The wound is deep, gaping, or deforming
  • Your pain is severe and doesn’t improve with OTC pain relievers
  • You have trouble swallowing, eating, or talking
  • The injured area is heavily bleeding, or the bleeding continues
  • You have a fever or signs of infection

A more severe tongue bite may require attention from a medical professional, who may use stitches to close the wound or prescribe antibiotics to stop an infection.

When Does a Tongue Bite Need Stitches?

A tongue bite requires stitches if:6

  • The laceration is long or deep
  • The bite has deformed your tongue
  • A piece of your tongue has been bitten off

If the bite on your tongue is shallow or minor, it probably doesn’t need stitches. However, it might need stitches if it doesn’t heal after a week or so.

 Always consult a doctor if you aren’t sure whether your bite needs stitches.

How Long Does it Take for a Bitten Tongue to Heal?

A bitten tongue will usually heal within three or four days or possibly up to a week. 

If it takes longer than that or doesn’t seem to be healing, you should contact a doctor. You may need further treatment, such as stitches or antibiotics. 

Why Do People Bite Their Tongues?

People typically bite their tongues accidentally. It’s a common occurrence in daily life and is not cause for alarm.

There are many different reasons why you might bite your tongue by mistake, including:

  • Eating ⁠— You might bite your tongue while chewing. It’s possible to miss the food and hit your tongue instead.
  • Physical activity ⁠— Intense physical activity or playing sports may cause someone to bite their tongue due to impact or movement.
  • Stress or focus ⁠— You might bite down on your tongue if you’re under pressure or concentrating intensely on something. Stress that causes jaw clenching can also cause tongue biting.
  • Injury ⁠— Trauma to your face or head can cause tongue injuries like bites.
  • Seizures ⁠— People who have seizures sometimes bite their tongues during an episode. Epilepsy can cause seizures that result in tongue bites.

Some people bite their tongues during sleep, which has its unique causes. Reasons you might bite your tongue while sleeping include:

  • Bruxism ⁠— Teeth grinding, also known as bruxism, happens frequently at night. Grinding your teeth can lead to tongue biting.
  • Sleep apnea ⁠— Sleep apnea is a common condition affecting around 26% of adults between the ages of 30 and 70.1 Its side effects include the abnormal activation of jaw muscles, which can cause tongue biting during sleep.
  • Muscle spasms ⁠— Some people have a rare condition called facio-mandibular myoclonus that causes facial and jaw muscle spasms at night. It’s more common in children and often misdiagnosed as seizures.2
  • Drug use ⁠— Illicit drugs such as MDMA can cause severe bruxism, leading to injuries in the mouth, like tongue biting.

Other underlying conditions may also be the culprit for nighttime tongue biting, including epilepsy, Lyme disease, and rhythmic movement disorder.3

Common Questions on Tongue Bites

Will a bitten tongue heal on its own?

Yes, a bitten tongue will typically heal within a few days. If your tongue injury doesn’t heal within a week, causes severe pain, or shows signs of infection, seek immediate medical care for further treatment.

What is a tongue infection?

A tongue infection occurs when germs like bacteria, fungi, or viruses grow on your tongue. It can occur after you bite your tongue if the wound is severe. See the doctor if your tongue shows signs of infection, such as pus, or if you develop a fever or chills.  

Why am I biting my tongue?

People accidentally bite their tongues for many reasons, including eating, physical activity, sleep issues, and injury.

Should I put ice on a bitten tongue?

Yes, you can put ice on your bitten tongue. First, clean the cut and apply pressure to stop the bleeding. Then you can use ice to ease pain and decrease swelling.

Summary

People accidentally bite their tongues for many reasons, including eating, physical activity, sleep issues, and injury. If you’re repeatedly biting your tongue during sleep, you may want to consult a doctor to uncover any underlying conditions.

Most bitten tongues heal on their own within a few days. You can speed up the healing process with saltwater mouth rinses, over-the-counter pain relievers, cold compresses, and good oral hygiene practices.

You should seek immediate medical attention if your cut is severe, the pain is intense and won’t go away, or your wound doesn’t heal within a week.

Last updated on February 7, 2024
6 Sources Cited
Last updated on February 7, 2024
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
  1. Rising Prevalence of Sleep Apnea in U.S. Threatens Public Health.” American Academy of Sleep Medicine, 2014.
  2. Seneviratne, U. “Facio-mandibular Myoclonus: A Rare Cause of Nocturnal Tongue Biting.” Epileptic Disorders: International Epilepsy Journal with Videotape, National Library of Medicine, 2011.
  3. Mahmoudi et al. “Tongue Biting: A Case of Sporadic Geniospasm during Sleep.” Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, National Library of Medicine, 2014.
  4. Samidah et al. “The Effectiveness of 7% Table Salt Concentration Test to Increase Collagen in the Healing Process of Wound.” Gaceta Sanitaria, ScienceDirect, 2021.
  5. Ice Packs vs. Warm Compresses for Pain.” Johns Hopkins Medicine, The Johns Hopkins University, 2023.
  6. Tongue Injury: Care Instructions.” MyHealth.Alberta.ca, Government of Alberta, 2022.
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram