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How to Heal Cheek Bites (And Stop Biting Them)

8 min read
by JS Dental Lab |

The pain from accidentally biting your cheek is something we can all relate to at some point. 

You’re going about your business, chewing your food and having a good conversation, and suddenly, bam, you’ve chewed your cheek instead. The instant intense feelings make that one quick bite a world-stopper for a few seconds until your nerves are soothed.

Cheek biting can happen because of an accident, a fall, or your unconscious behavior in a stressful situation. Whatever the reason, damaging the soft tissue in your mouth just plain hurts.

When this happens occasionally, it’s not a big deal. The tissue will heal, even if it bleeds for a few minutes.  

If you’re biting your cheeks regularly, though, it’s a sign that there’s something more serious going on inside your body. Habitual cheek biting can be dangerous if you’re ignoring the cause and creating damage to the bitten area. 

So why are you biting your cheek like it’s bubble gum? 

And how can you heal those cheek bites and stop the problem? 

We have the answers in this guide.

Note: JS Dental is a provider of night guards, specially fitted dental appliances worn overnight to prevent or reduce teeth grinding. Mouth guards usually refer to sporting mouth guards, but they are often used interchangeably. In this article, when we say mouth guard, we are really referring to the night guard for teeth grinding and clenching.

What Does Habitual Cheek Biting Look Like?

Chronic cheek biting is when you chew on your cheeks in a manner that causes repeated self-inflicted damage.

It’s done on purpose, even if it’s subconscious, just like how some of us have infamous nail-biting habits. For the most part, we don’t see it as dangerous. However, biting your cheek (or lip or tongue) is usually stress or anxiety-related.

The visual cue that you bite your nails too much shows when you have torn and bleeding cuticles. 

In the same vein, there are visible signs that you’re biting your cheek frequently: you’ll have lesions that look like white patches on your cheek. These patches show up where your teeth meet and can also appear on your lips and tongue.

The official name for cheek biting is morsicatio buccarum. It’s in the same category as other repetitive behaviors, such as skin picking and chronic hair pulling. 

It may surprise you how many people have this body-focused repetitive behavior (BRFB, or BFRD for disorders). It affects children and adults across all demographics.

Cheek Biting Statistics

If you’re biting your cheek repetitively, you may have an obsessive-compulsive disorder that affects every 750 out of one million people worldwide. 

Overall, it’s common to find more females than males who engage in cheek chewing, but anyone with a cheek and teeth can do it. 

Cheek and lip-biting in children between 2 and 17 years of age are the most prevalent. Some research points to the cause as a lack of understanding of other ways to deal with boredom or anxious thoughts and situations. 

As we learn other methods to handle our stress, we tend to grow out of these body-focused repetitive behaviors.

If you’re still biting your cheek as an adult, we’ll help you figure out why you’re doing it so you can stop the damaging behavior.

Related: Reasons You May Be Biting Your Tongue in Your Sleep

Why Are You Biting Your Cheek, Anyway?

Puppy biting a chew toy

The official way to refer to this habit is “chronic biting of the oral mucosa.” 

In other words, the soft tissue of your cheek is your chew toy. Unlike your dog’s favorite tennis ball or bone, chewing your oral mucosa isn’t healthy.

Getting to the Source of the Behavior

Knowing the reason we’re chewing helps us understand the behavior. 

For instance, we know dogs chew because they’re teething, bored, or have an itch. If an owner sees their dog chewing constantly, they recognize there’s a problem and start to look for the cause and solution.

The same theory applies to your cheek-biting habit. As soon as you start to notice you’re chewing, you can recognize the triggers and signs that lead you to this behavior and learn how to stop them.

Common Physical Causes of Habitual Cheek Biting

Biting your cheek obsessively can be an oral health or mental health symptom. By paying attention to your behaviors, you follow them to the triggers and cause. The solution comes from finding those patterns.

In some cases, it’s easy to tell why you’re biting your cheek. Maybe you were hurrying or got in a fight, and the bite was accidental. 

Now, you have a mouth injury. You keep biting it because the tissue is inflamed and in the way of your bite path. Accidental cheek biting will go away when the wound heals, but this healing process takes longer if you keep gnawing at the injured site.

Teeth misalignments are quickly recognizable, too. You may have wisdom teeth growing in, causing discomfort and shifting in your mouth. 

Like the puppy scenario, biting the inside of your cheek helps you deal with the pain of your growing teeth. 

If you’re cheek chewing while sleeping, the issue could potentially be corrected or lessened with dentistry solutions, like a night guard from JS Dental Lab.

But, you could also need to have your wisdom teeth pulled or get orthodontic work done for severe misalignments. Consult your dentist.

Mental Causes of Cheek Biting

Not all causes are physical, however. 

These common mental health causes of cheek biting are less obvious and often include:

  • Being bored or distracted
  • Compulsive behaviors (BFRB) that you don’t realize you have
  • Stress, anxiety, or depression

These causes will require the help of your medical doctor and some cognitive behavioral therapy to solve. 

In the meantime, keep reading for ways to reduce the dangers of biting your inner cheek.

Is Cheek Biting Dangerous?

The periodic “ow, that hurt” cheek bite isn’t a big deal. It happens once in a while, with plenty of time in between for the tissue to heal.

It becomes a problem when biting the inside of the cheek is chronic. Over time, it can cause severe medical conditions.

Physical Consequences of Cheek Biting

For the most part, accidentally biting your cheek is more of an annoyance than a cause for concern. You’ll likely end up with canker sores that make it challenging to eat your favorite spicy foods or brush your teeth.

When you start gnawing on your soft tissue, though, the consequences become harsher. First, you’ll notice redness and mouth sores or ulcers that become painful. These sores eventually tear the mucosa (inner lining of the mouth).

Another potential result of cheek biting is oral cancer. Although biting doesn’t cause cancer, it can cause any existing cancer in the mouth to spread faster.

Psychological Consequences of Obsessive Cheek Biting

If you can’t control your biting because it’s obsessive-compulsive behavior, you’ll probably start to avoid hanging out with others and any social activity. 

You’ll be too concerned that others will notice your biting habit, resulting in mental health issues like guilt, shame, and loneliness. This psychological damage may be significant and also become a cause and effect loop.

Further reading: What’s Stress Got to do With It?

How Can I Stop Biting My Cheek and Let it Heal?

Bathtub, tea, candle, books

Because the damage is inside your mouth, there aren’t many topical medications you can use to heal the tissue. 

Popular antibiotic ointments like Neosporin aren’t intended for oral use. While there are other options that you can use safely in your mouth, they can wash away quickly with saliva production.

So what do you do when you can’t rely on your medicine cabinet? The best option you have to eliminate cheek bite damage is to give your mouth time to recover between bites. When your cheek tissue isn’t inflamed and protruding from repetitive biting, it heals and the tissue is no longer in your bite path.

Ahead, we’ll give you ideas on how to do exactly that.

Temporary and Long-Term Cheek Biting Solutions

Ready to stop biting and let your mouth heal? 

Try a few of these simple techniques. Remember, breaking a bad habit can take up to 66 days, so don’t give up!

Use a Night Guard

Investing in a custom-made night guard from reputable companies like JS Dental Lab is a simple solution. A night guard prevents you from gnawing at your cheek in your sleep. 

However, you can’t use just any old mouth guard. If it doesn’t fit properly, it can damage the soft tissue in new areas, which will, of course, result in more biting when you’re awake.

A custom-fit night guard keeps your teeth from touching, so you can’t subconsciously chew. Wear it when you’re sleeping or when you’re bored or anxious during the day.

Other Ways to Let Your Mouth Heal

Part of the reason you’re chewing your cheek is that your brain is looking for that repetitive motion. 

You can get the same satisfaction by swapping your soft tissue for a piece of chewing gum. Make sure it’s sugar-free to avoid cavities and chew away!

Use a salt water rinse in the morning and evening as a mouthwash alternative. People have used salt water for healing wounds for thousands of years. It raises your mouth’s pH level and makes the environment more alkaline, which speeds up healing.

Salt water rinses are safe and effective. Just add ½ teaspoon of salt to one cup of warm water, mix, and swish. Do this consistently for a few days, and you should notice the sores begin to disappear.

Fixing the Psychological Stressors

When the cause of your cheek biting is psychological, it will take a little more time to fix the problem. 

With the help of a professional mental health counselor and a few of these tried-and-true techniques, you’ll reduce your stress:

  • Independent methods of reducing stress and increasing mindfulness, such as yoga, meditation, journaling, or walking
  • Mental health counseling to learn other coping strategies and recognize your causes of stress
  • Identifying and avoiding triggers that cause the biting behaviors (this is often easier to do with the help of a professional therapist, as well)

For most of us, fixing a psychological stressor doesn’t happen overnight. Use your method of choice for a few weeks before you decide it’s not working, and try something else. Sooner or later, you’ll find something that works, and you’ll fall in love with doing it regularly.

Is Screen Time Causing Your Stress Biting?

One more thing to consider is reducing screen time. 

Experts suggest that too much phone or TV time significantly increases your body’s stress. The prevalence of binging TV shows and scrolling through social media is apparent as related mental health disorders are rising.

In addition to the psychological impact of overusing technology, the screens disrupt the normal functioning of the mind and body. Too much light and stimuli stress our central nervous system and can eventually lead to an addictive behavior on top of cheek biting.

Try limiting your screen time and replacing it with a hobby you enjoy, like learning a new instrument, gardening, or cooking. This will actively lower your stress levels.

New to night guards? Get all the facts with our Everything About Night Guards guide!

Conclusion

Biting your cheek compulsively doesn’t have to be something you’re stuck with forever. Sure, it seems like that sore will never go away as long as you keep subconsciously gnawing on it, but there are solutions.

Start with identifying why you’re treating your mouth like a chew toy. While you’re working on figuring out the cause, order a night guard from JS Dental Lab

No matter the reason for your incessant biting, your teeth can’t get a hold on your cheek when you’re wearing a night guard!

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