Lip/cheek Chewing After Dental Treatment

A majority of our little patients that receive restorative dental treatment in our offices will be administered local anesthesia (medicine to numb) for the dental procedure.  The local anesthesia allows for the teeth and gums to be numb while we remove the decay and restore the teeth.  The local anesthesia also reduces/prevents pain and allows the child to be comfortable during the procedure.

Following the dental procedure, we inform the parent(s) that the child will be numb for several hours and provide written instructions and information.  We strongly encourage the parents to watch and monitor their child closely after the dental procedure as children have a tendency to bite, pinch, chew, or suck on their lips, tongue or cheeks while numb because it feels “chubby”, “tingly”, or “itchy”.   We also provide the child and parents with several cotton rolls which can be placed in between the child’s teeth while numb.  Typically, if a child is holding a cotton roll between the teeth then he/she should not be chewing or sucking on their lip.   If a child bites, chews, sucks, or pinches the numb lip, tongue, or cheeks long enough and hard enough they will create a large sore that will be very painful when the numbness wears off.

A phone call we sometimes receive from parents several hours to a day later following dental treatment on their child is a question about a possible infection of the cheek or lip on the same side in which dental treatment was completed.  Parents describe their child’s lip, cheek, or tongue as being swollen, painful, red, warm, and has an area that looks like a sore with a white layer or section that looks like “hamburger”.  They are very concerned that their child has an infection following dental treatment and would like to know what can be done or if the child needs to take antibiotics.   This painful and swollen lip, tongue, or cheek is not an infection following dental treatment, but are symptoms that the child chewed or sucked their lip, tongue, or cheek while numb and created a traumatic injury.  As the sore/ulceration is from trauma and not an infection, there is no simple definitive treatment and antibiotics will not help.  The injury needs time to heal.  One can help alleviate the pain and swelling by doing the following:

-providing children’s Tylenol or Motrin;

-keeping the injured area of the mouth clean by continuing a normal hygiene routine;

-rinsing and swishing three times per day for the first 3 days with either a warm salt water solution or an antibacterial over the counter rinse know as Peroxyl;

-icing the cheek or lip for 20 minute increments if it is swollen;

-eating soft foods while the area is swollen and avoiding hot or spicy foods.

It will take approximately 7-10 days for the injured area to heal depending upon the severity of the self-inflicted injury.

If your child is going to receive dental treatment where local anesthesia is required, please monitor your child closely while he/she is numb to avoid any possible chewing or sucking injuries.  The injuries can be extensive if a child is not monitored.


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