Why do I keep biting my cheek?

December 18, 2021

Why do I keep biting my cheek?
Cheek biting and scars on the inside of the cheek mucosa
White scars on the inside of the cheek caused by the teeth - cheek biting

Cheek biting can affect people of all ages. It can be painful, irritating, and even unhealthy. In some cases, it is harmless. In other cases, it can be a harmful nervous habit that puts an individual’s health and quality of life at risk. Why do individuals bite their cheeks? How harmful is it? What are some treatment options? Read on to find out more about cheek biting.


What are the types of cheek biting and their treatments?

Here are five common types of cheek biting:

Periodic accidental cheek biting

Most people have accidentally bitten their cheek before. It is usually the result of careless chewing or talking while eating. And if biting causes injury, the inflammation at the location of the bite can result in repeated accidental biting until the site heals. This type of cheek bite is not often cause for concern. It might result in a canker, but with care and oral hygiene, the site should heal in one to three weeks.


Regular accidental cheek biting

If an individual accidentally bites down on their cheek more often it may be from teeth not in proper alignment or a problem with the jaw. A misaligned bite could cause damage to the teeth and soft tissue because the bite is not evenly distributed to all of the teeth. Fortunately, orthodontic treatment is a common and reliable way to correct a misaligned bite.


Cheek biting while asleep

This is a type of unintentional behavior. Because the individual is asleep while it occurs, it may seem like the behavior is outside their control. But the dentist can provide a soft tissue guard. This will prevent direct contact of the teeth with the cheek.


Habitual cheek biting

If cheek biting is a semiconscious activity it is considered a habit. In these cases, cheek biting can be addressed with light guidance, patience, and self-discipline. Usually, individuals can work to replace the behavior with another that is less damaging, like chewing gum or simple relaxation techniques.


Cheek biting as BFRD

Chronic cheek biting can also be a symptom of a mental health condition driven by anxiety or stress, similar to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Scientifically known as morsicatio buccarum, chronic cheek chewing or biting is considered a body-focused repetitive behavior (BFRB). It often corresponds with anxiety-related problems and is a more complicated condition to address. Much like nail biting or hair pulling, habitual cheek biting can become a disorder if it causes injury or distress and beings to get in the way of a person’s quality of life. And the endless cycle often creates physical complications only a dentist or other oral health care provider can see. Individuals will require multi-fold treatment and will likely need to work with a physician or psychologist to find an effective treatment to cope with stress and minimize its effects. Treatment might also entail cognitive behavior therapy such as habit reversal therapy or acceptance and commitment therapy.


What are the dangers of chronic cheek biting?


Firstly, cheek biting can hurt. And the discomfort can last much longer than the initial pain upon contact. Second, biting, burns, or other injuries can also cause a trauma-related bump on the soft tissue. It can vary in size, appearance, and pain level. Also, mouth sores can develop. If proper oral hygiene is not maintained, these mouth sores can become infected. If the mouth injury is accompanied by excessive pain, prolonged bleeding, fever, bad odor, bad taste, or increased swelling it is important to seek help from a health care provider as soon as possible. The most dangerous is deep and repeated biting. It can cause damage to the buccal mucosa. And while rare, in the worst instances cheek biting can lead to an increased risk of changes to the cells which result in oral cancer.


If an individual bites the inside of their cheek it could simply be an accident or a misalignment issue. Or it could also be a problem with stress. If an individual finds they are biting their check too often, it is important to consult with a dentist or physician and develop a treatment plan.


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