Tongue laceration


  • Secondary to tongue biting
  • Serious injuries can cause hemorrhage and potential airway compromise

Clinical Features

  • Examine for other injuries, missing teeth, embedded foreign bodies

Differential Diagnosis

Tongue diagnoses



  • Do not need primary repair unless >1 cm in length, widely gaping, involving tip / anterior split tongue, or large hemorrhage
    • Use absorbable sutures, chromic gut or vicryl but not fast absorbing
    • Tie 4-5 knots but approximate loosely to allow for swelling
    • Anesthesia of the anterior 2/3 of the tongue is obtained through a lingual nerve block or topical anesthesia with 4% lidocaine soaked gauze.
    • Chlorhexidine mouth wash to prevent infection

Pediatric patients

Graphic for determining need for suturing in pediatric patients with tongue laceration.

Who needs suturing (see photo to the right)? [1] [2]

  1. Consult Head & Neck service if any large amputation of tongue. Otherwise, proceed below.
  2. Lidocaine
  3. Anxiolysis - Midazolam 0.3-0.5 mg/kg intranasal (max 10kg) or Ketamine 3-6 Mg/kg intranasal
  4. Retraction - Clamp tongue with towel and pull tongue forward. Consider placing O-silk suture midline in tongue for added traction, but be careful to avoid lingual artery when puncturing (go midline and as anterior as possible when puncturing).
  5. Irrigate and inspect
  6. Suture - many options exist (1 single deep suture through all 3 layers, 1 suture above and 1 below)
  7. Follow-up - Soft diet for 3 days, antiseptic (dilute peroxide) swish and spit, antibiotics not needed unless wound is dirty


  • Typically outpatient

See Also

Special Lacerations by Body Part

External Links




  • Ud-udin Z and Gull S. Should minor mucosal tongue lacerations be sutured in children? Emerg Med J. 2007 Feb; 24(2): 123–124.
  • Tongue lacerations. A. Patel. BDJ 204, 355 (2008) Published online: 12 April 2008. doi :10.1038/sj.bdj.2008.257.
  1. Seller Et al. Tongue lacerations in children: to suture or not? Swiss Med Wkly. 2018;148:w14683
  2. Sibley, A., Atkinson, P., & Lobay, K. (2020). Just the facts: Pediatric Dental and Oral Injuries. CJEM, 22(1), 23-26. doi:10.1017/cem.2019.440