If you've played sports, it's natural to suffer an injury now and then. According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD), however, the majority of sports-related injuries affect the mouth – particularly the upper lip, maxilla (upper jaw) and maxillary incisors. Oralfacial injuries are common for those who play sports, and especially so for the 15- to 18-year-old student-athlete. In fact, a lip injury is one of the most common oral lacerations kids need treated today.
Here are the kind of sports-related lip injuries that can occur, how they're treated and the best ways to care for the mouth and teeth during the healing process.
The Nature of Lip Injuries
Your lips are made up of three major layers: skin, muscle and oral mucosa – the latter being the mucous membrane, which lines the inside of the mouth. The University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) observes a great amount of bloodflow in the lips, so when a cut occurs, it can require compression very quickly. With this pressure, though, bleeding should subside in five to 10 minutes.
Although these kinds of injuries are more common in kids, sports-related lip incidents can occur no matter what your age. The American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery says many cuts and scrapes are the result of high-contact sports such as boxing, football, soccer, ice hockey, bicycling, skiing and similar winter sports.
What Happens When They Occur
There are a few types of symptoms for injuries in this area. These include:
- Pain or numbness in the lips.
- Swelling, which can hide other more serious injuries underneath.
- Bruising, which indicates bleeding underneath the skin that typically subsides in one to two weeks.
Although these injuries can sometimes be minor, keep in mind there are other more serious lip injuries that aren't simply facial lacerations, but instead internal. Mucosal lacerations, for example, denote a cut into the mucous membrane inside your mouth, which can create a flap that impedes your ability to chew. A mucosal laceration can also trap food if it's already in your mouth. Be mindful of this possibility, as an internal injury that's longer than two centimeters can require more advanced treatment by a dental specialist.
Effects on Your Oral Health
When a lip injury occurs, it can affect your overall oral health in more ways than one. The URMC suggests some of these injuries can alter your teeth structure and your ability to close your mouth without doing further damage. And if you have an internal cut, trapped food particle buildup is of course never healthy.
Lip injuries can also include a puncture wound from your own tooth, as well as a direct injury to your teeth upon impact. This includes chipping or even knocking out a tooth. And because the mouth is full of bacteria, decreasing bacteria buildup and risk of infection in your mouth is crucial. Antibiotics are typically prescribed for this reason.
Treating a Lip Injury
Depending on the severity of the lip injury, you may not need to visit a doctor. If your injury is facial, like a surface-level cut or abrasion, clean it with soapy water and a clean cloth. For minor internal injuries, rinse the wound with salt water or a mixture of one part hydrogen peroxide and one part water, making sure not to swallow this mixture.
Ultimately, you'll need to visit the ER for any injury that includes swelling, broad or deep lacerations, puncture wounds or infections. These injuries may need the care of either an oral surgeon or cosmetic surgeon, who can make sure the wound is cleaned and stitched correctly so that it heals properly. And if there's any trauma to your teeth, you should always make an appointment with your dentist.
During the healing process, keep the area clean with a daily mouth rinse such as Colgate® Peroxyl® Mouth Sore Rinse, which prevents ulcers that can occur as a result of infection. Additionally, avoid straining your mouth muscles, and cut down on any acidic, sugary or hot foods that can sting when in contact with the injury. And, as always, continue brushing and flossing daily, taking care of the area around the wound.
Lip injuries can heal well when you give them the proper care. But wearing the right gear and keeping safety in mind is the best way to prevent them.