How to Stop a Bleeding Tongue: Causes and Treatments for Tongue Injury

    Published 23 April 2020
    Fact Checked
    Reviewed by Olga Adereyko, MD, Primary Care Physician, General Practitioner, Medical Consultant
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    The tongue is a powerful, not to mention essential, organ of the human body. So if you’ve been dealing with a persistently bleeding tongue, it’s wise to address the issue immediately. Join Flo as we uncover its underlying causes and how to stop a bleeding tongue.

    Mechanical causes of a bleeding tongue

    The tongue is a muscular organ, which contracts and relaxes to perform functions like chewing, swallowing, and talking. It contains sensory nerves around the papillae (or small bumps on the surface of the tongue) to detect tastes and textures. Since it receives steady blood flow and boasts a high concentration of nerve endings, when it’s injured, it can be very painful and lead to a bleeding tongue.

    The most likely culprit behind a bleeding tongue? Mechanical problems that could include:

    • Biting down on it forcefully
    • The metal brackets or wires of braces rubbing up against it
    • Having a tongue piercing
    • Cutting it on sharp utensils or food items

    Whatever the reason for a tongue injury, it’s important to find out how to stop your tongue from bleeding as soon as possible.

    How to stop a bleeding tongue at home

    Fortunately, there are a few home remedies available for treating a cut on your tongue. First and foremost, make sure your hands are thoroughly washed, and use only clean or brand new first aid supplies.

    • Apply gentle pressure to a cut on the tongue with a cold compress (e.g., ice wrapped in a clean washcloth). 
    • Once the bleeding stops or slows down, start rinsing your mouth several times a day. Mix a solution of 1 teaspoon salt or baking soda dissolved in a cup of warm water. 
    • Avoid consuming anything that might irritate the wound, like hot beverages and acidic or spicy foods.
    • Gargle after every meal with an antiseptic mouthwash to prevent a bleeding tongue from becoming infected.

    Note that these tips on how to stop your tongue from bleeding only apply to minor wounds. Severe cases of bleeding tongue require a visit to a health care provider, or emergency care, should the pain become intense.

    When to see a doctor for a cut on the tongue

    The average cut on the tongue resulting from a mechanical injury probably doesn’t warrant medical attention. Still, be sure to monitor the healing process and get professional advice if pain persists or symptoms worsen.

    Chronic or infectious causes behind a bleeding tongue

    If an acute injury isn’t responsible for a bleeding tongue, it could point to a chronic medical condition or infection.

    Excess blood vessels

    Some individuals develop a cluster of excess blood vessels called hemangiomas. These are benign tumors that tend to appear within a few weeks of birth and grow rapidly over the next six to eight months.

    Though rare, a hemangioma on the tongue can cause bleeding and difficulties eating. 

    Should it pose any sort of health danger, a health care provider might recommend surgical removal.


    Another contributing factor for a bleeding tongue is a sore or blister triggered by oral herpes (HSV-1). Early symptoms of oral herpes include: 

    • Itching, burning, or tingling sensations on the lips or skin around the mouth
    • Sore throat or painful swallowing
    • Fever
    • Swollen glands

    Occasionally, a painful rash or outbreak of blisters in and around the mouth develops. Filled with clear or yellowish fluid, these blisters might burst, then crust over as they gradually heal. Consult a health care provider if you’ve observed symptoms of oral herpes, or if they worsen over time.

    Remember, the HSV-1 virus is contagious, and the likelihood of contracting it increases when you share utensils or kiss someone with oral herpes. Also note, not everyone who carries the virus will display symptoms.

    Oral infections

    Oral infections affect people of all ages but most commonly appear in children, the elderly, and those with weakened immune systems. 

    One such type of infection is oral thrush or oral candidiasis, which is produced by an overgrowth of Candida albicans fungus on the mouth’s lining. Symptoms of oral thrush include white, creamy tongue or inner mouth lesions, redness, soreness, and a cotton-mouth sensation. 

    If thrush lesions become irritated by rubbing or scraping, it may lead to a bleeding tongue. Consider discussing antibiotic or antifungal treatment options for an oral infection with your health care provider.


    Mouth ulcers either present on their own or as a symptom of another chronic medical condition. It’s a circular-shaped sore usually found on the inner lips or cheeks, or underneath the tongue’s surface. They may produce pain or a bleeding tongue if irritated by eating, drinking, or accidental abrasions. 

    Luckily, most mouth ulcers don’t require medical treatment and will usually clear up on their own within a week or two. Speed up the healing process and relieve pain by:

    • Brushing your teeth with a soft-bristled toothbrush
    • Eating a well-balanced diet low in sugar, salt, and acids
    • Avoiding scalding hot or freezing cold foods and drinks
    • Steering clear of chewing gum and sharp, crunchy, or hard-to-eat foods

    If the ulcer hasn’t healed after two weeks or symptoms persist, see your health care provider immediately. This is also strongly recommended if sores appear elsewhere on the body, or the same ulcer keeps coming back.

    Tongue cancer

    The presence of a persistent ulcer is a potential indication of cancer. Tongue cancer grows either on the oral tongue (i.e., the front two-thirds), or at the base of the tongue (which extends down the throat). 

    Warning signs of tongue cancer include: 

    • Greyish-pink to red lumps on the tongue which resemble an ulcer
    • Lumps on the tongue that bleed easily when touched or bitten
    • Tongue bleeding when brushing

    Cancer located at the base of the tongue makes it difficult to swallow and can feel like there’s always a lump in your throat. Some patients notice inner ear pain or changes in their voice. Please consult your health care provider about any concerns or symptoms lasting more than a couple of weeks.


    In most instances, a bleeding tongue isn’t a major cause for concern. More often than not, the cause is mechanical injury. 

    However, if you researched how to stop a bleeding tongue and found similarities between your symptoms and those listed above, seek medical attention right away. Only a trained professional can assess whether a bleeding tongue is due to an underlying health condition.

    Even if you know how to stop the tongue from bleeding at home, remember to closely monitor the wound and get help if symptoms worsen or persist.

    History of updates

    Current version (23 April 2020)

    Reviewed by Olga Adereyko, MD, Primary Care Physician, General Practitioner, Medical Consultant

    Published (23 April 2020)

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