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Mouth Wounds: When Are Stitches Needed?

Topic Overview

It is important to determine whether your wound needs to be closed by a doctor. Your risk of infection increases the longer the wound remains open. Most wounds that require closure should be stitched or closed with skin adhesives (also called liquid stitches) within 6 to 8 hours after the injury. Some wounds that require treatment can be closed as long as 24 hours after the injury.

A cut or puncture inside your mouth may need stitches if it:

  • Is deeper than 0.25 in. (7 mm) and has jagged edges, gapes open, or leaves a loose flap of tissue.
  • Is deeper than 0.25 in. (7 mm) and longer than 0.75 in. (20 mm) when the edges are pulled apart.
  • Goes all the way through the cheek or lip.
  • Cuts the edge where the skin meets the lip.
  • Continues to bleed after 15 minutes of direct pressure.

Even a small cut on the lip may be stitched to prevent a scar.

If treatment may be needed, do not use an antiseptic or antibiotic ointment until after a doctor has examined the wound.

Related Information

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer David Messenger, MD
Last Revised July 20, 2012

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