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A busted lip is a relatively common occurrence, and it typically results from an injury. The lip will appear bruised or swollen, and there may be a small wound. A busted lip can cause discomfort or pain, but there are several options for promoting healing.

Sometimes, a busted lip may bleed a lot because the mouth and surrounding areas contain many blood vessels. For this reason, it can be hard to know when to use at-home treatments and when to see a doctor.

In this article, we explain how a person can treat a busted lip at home, as well as when they should see a doctor for medical treatment.

The following at-home treatments may help someone if they have busted their lip:

1. Clean the lip

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A person can treat a busted lip by rinsing it with saltwater.

Rinse the lip with cold water and check whether any areas are cut and not just bruised. Usually, a person will not need to wash the area with soap, especially if the injury is to the inner lip.

However, a person can gently clean the outside of the mouth with soap and water if they wish.

2. Use saltwater for rinsing

People can try using warm saltwater as a rinsing solution.

It is important to rinse the saltwater off thoroughly after application and to avoid swallowing it.

3. Press the lips around a cooled, moistened tea bag

Teas naturally contain compounds called tannins, which research suggests can help stop bleeding by promoting blood clotting.

4. Apply a clean, cool compress

Immediately after an injury occurs, applying a cold, wet washcloth to the lip can help stop any bleeding in addition to soothing irritated tissues.

A person should apply gentle but firm pressure on the lip until the bleeding subsides, which should usually take about 5–10 minutes.

5. Try sucking on an ice pop or ice cube

These frozen foods will cool the mouth and reduce swelling. They are also suitable for children.

6. Apply a cloth-covered ice pack to the lips

During all waking hours in the first 24 hours after the injury, hold the ice pack against the lips every 2 hours for 10–15 minutes at a time.

The cold temperature of the pack may help reduce swelling and minimize discomfort.

7. Take over-the-counter pain relievers

Medications for pain relief, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil), may reduce the pain of a busted lip.

8. Apply petroleum jelly

Petroleum jelly (Vaseline) can help prevent moisture loss, stopping the lips from becoming dry and chapped, which may delay healing. People should always apply the jelly with clean hands.

9. Keep the head elevated

Elevating the head will allow blood to drain from it, and this may help reduce swelling. A person can raise their head while sleeping by placing extra pillows under it.

Other tips

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Eating soft foods may help a lip heal faster.

In addition to trying the above treatments, a person with a busted lip may wish to eat soft foods until their lip has had time to heal. Examples of soft foods to eat include:

  • smoothies
  • yogurt
  • applesauce
  • soups
  • mashed foods, such as bananas or potatoes
  • scrambled eggs
  • boiled pasta

It is best to avoid foods that are spicy, salty, or very acidic as these may cause pain when they come into contact with open wounds.

A person should see a doctor if a cut lip does not stop bleeding after applying constant pressure to the wound for 10 minutes.

A person should also see a doctor for a busted lip if they have:

  • a cut that is deep or longer than half an inch, as this may require stitches to repair
  • an open wound that is due to a rusty or dirty object
  • difficulty eating or swallowing
  • a very painful cut
  • an injury resulting from an animal or human bite, as a doctor may need to help clean out the wound
  • debris, such as gravel or dirt, embedded in their mouth

Sometimes, a person may notice that the lip starts to show signs of infection a few days after the injury. An infected lip may be red, warm to the touch, draining pus, or becoming more swollen. In this case, it is also important to see a doctor.

Learn more about how to recognize an infected wound here.

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A person can wear a protective mouthguard when playing sports to help prevent mouth injuries.

One of the most common causes of a busted lip is an injury from playing sports, such as basketball, football, or soccer. If a person falls or takes a blow to the face, they may bust their lip.

Other common causes of a busted lip include:

  • a car accident in which a person injures their mouth on the steering wheel
  • a fall
  • an injury that results from holding an object in the mouth or between the teeth

Wearing a protective mouthguard when participating in sporting activities can help reduce the likelihood of dental or mouth injuries. Mouthguards are available to purchase online.

In most instances, people can treat a busted lip at home without seeking medical attention. However, if a busted lip gets worse instead of better or becomes infected, a person should see a doctor.

Keeping the lip clean and dry can help the wound heal as quickly as possible.