Cheek, lip and tongue biting
Morsicatio Buccarum is a condition characterized by chronic irritation or injury to the Buccal Mucosa (the lining of the inside of the mouth), caused by repetitive chewing, biting or nibbling.
You gnaw on the inside of your mouth and lips and it feels like you may go through to the other side – but you just don’t care.
The main types of mouth chewing are:
Cheek, Lip and Tongue biting
These can be broken down into the following:
- Periodic accidental biting: Although this might result in a canker sore, the occasional, accidental mouth, lips or tongue bite is not a cause for concern.
- Regular accidental biting: If you accidentally bite down on your cheeks regularly — and more often than you would like — your teeth may not be in proper alignment. Seek professional dental advice if this is the case.
- Biting while asleep: This unintentional behavior can be addressed with a mouth protector that prevents direct contact of your teeth with your mouth.
- Habitual biting: As a habit, this semiconscious activity can be resolved by retraining your mouth and body postures.
- Obsessive biting: This chronic biting continues despite attempts to stop and is often triggered by stress.
I chew the tip of my tongue, especially when I’m stressed. Is this bad? How do I stop?
Body-Focused Repetitive Behavior
Any repetitive behavior that involves damaging one’s physical appearance or causes injury is considered a Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviour (BFRB). This includes such habits as; nail biting, hair pulling, skin picking and inner cheek, lip or tongue biting.
Ongoing biting causes sores and swelling; the lining of your mouth, lips or tongue can start to feel bumpy, which can make you bite more. BFRB is a self-soothing behavior that may not cause major physical harm, but the effects do cause discomfort.
Any damage from mouth biting is easily repairable; your body begins its healing process within 20 minutes of stopping.
Stopping cheek/mouth biting is achievable and can happen easily with the appropriate support and tools.
People with this BFRB simply can’t stop biting the inside of their mouth. This damages the skin and causes sores and swelling. The inner lining of your mouth and skin starts to feel lumpy, which may encourage you want to chew it more. It is a cycle that is annoying, but can be stopped.
Since people often do this to self-soothe, it can help to learn about your habit and create a mindful attitude around it.
This is when you have the desire to chew, bite or suck on your inner lip. With time the skin cells on your lip fall off and create a bumpy white, grey or yellowish patch.
Wearing a lip protector, a guard that keeps your lower teeth away from your lips, can help break this cycle. Learning more about this compulsion and associated feelings that may be behind this BFRB can be helpful.
People chew on the sides of their tongues. It’s more common than you’d think and is often caused by stress.
Your dentist may suggest that you wear a special mouth guard that covers your teeth and shields your tongue. You can also look into ways to manage stress.
Commonly referred to as nail biting. Up to 30% of people do this and some aren’t even aware of it.
Besides damaging your skin and nails, this also can cause permanent damage to your teeth and can lead to infection. Keeping your nails trimmed short can help. Gloves can also be helpful to stop the urge to bite, trim and clean up.
If you have this BFRB, you can’t stop picking your fingernails and toenails, as well as the skin around them.
Over time, this leads to hangnails and red open sores, and you can spread germs from your mouth to your skin. This leads to infections. Take care of your nail and pay special attention, perhaps loving them a bit more. Wearing a pair of gloves could help, too.
People can pull hair from their heads, eyelashes, eyebrows or other parts of their bodies. Anxiety or boredom is often the trigger. In some cases, people are running on autopilot while pulling their hair. Trichotillomania often starts in early teens and it can be a problem for life.
You can try to replace it with another, more healthy habit. For example, you might try to keep your fingers busy. Another way is to wear gloves or fingerless mittens.
Like biting your nails, cheek biting can become a nervous habit. The inside of the cheek becomes swollen which makes it easier to continue biting the same spot.
Over time constant cheek biting can result in inflammation, bleeding and scarring of the area.