Some people think cheek biting disorder is a harmless, bad habit like biting your nails. This repetitive behavior is often due to stress and anxiety, but it can also be indicative of a mental disorder like obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
Morsicatio buccarum – scientifically known as cheek biting and chewing – is regarded as a body-focused repetitive behavior (BFRB), similar to trichotillomania and excoriation. The behavior is related to anxiety.
Behaviors that cannot be stopped despite repeated efforts to stop them are called BFRBs. An illness becomes a disorder when it interferes with someone’s quality of life and causes injury or distress. BFRBC usually begins in early childhood and lasts into adulthood.
Almost everyone has accidentally bitten their cheek at some point, but some people bite their cheeks compulsively over time.
750 out of every 1 million people bite their cheeks or other areas of the mouth. It appears that females are more likely to engage in this behavior than males.
People of all ages may bite their cheeks, but children are more likely to do so. Researchers from a 2005 study showed that cheek and lip biting was relatively common among children in the United States between the ages of 2 and 17.
Discover why cheek biting occurs, how it can cause complications and when you should seek medical attention.
Read: Tongue Biting Disorder
What is cheek biting?
People bite their cheeks for many reasons. A minor accident can sometimes cause cheek biting disorder, but it can also be caused by mental health issues.
Occasionally, people bite their cheeks accidentally when they chew or talk while eating. Bite injuries and inflammation can occur at the bite site as a result of accidental bites.
It may be helpful to see a dentist if someone is accidentally biting their cheek regularly. If the teeth or implants in the mouth become misaligned, this may result in this symptom. The cheeks can also be frequently bitten by people with TMD.
Biting their cheeks repetitively may indicate a body-focused disorder. They may also bite their cheeks while sleeping.
A person who bites their cheeks regularly is suffering from a serious medical condition. Currently, it is classified under obsessive-compulsive and related disorders in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).
Additionally, hair pulling, nail biting, and lip biting are examples of body-focused repetitive disorders.
Read: Nail Picking Disorder
Types of cheek biting
Cheek biting disorder can occur in five primary ways:
- Periodic accidental cheek biting. Canker sores might result from accidental cheek bites, however this isn’t a major concern.
- Regular accidental cheek biting. Often and more often than you would like to, you may accidentally bite down on your cheeks, which may indicate your teeth are not properly aligned or that something is wrong with your jaw. If your dentist feels this is a problem, he or she may recommend braces as an orthodontic solution.
- Cheek biting while asleep. The dentist can provide a soft guard to prevent the teeth from making direct contact with the cheeks.
- Habitual cheek biting. It is possible to replace semiconscious behavior with a less damaging one.
- BFRD. A person engages in obsessive cheek biting that does not end despite repeated attempts.
Causes of cheek biting
Chronic cheek biting is commonly caused by psychological factors rather than dental problems.
Researchers believe repetitive behaviors that focus on the body may have a genetic element. People with body-focused repetitive behavior may be at risk if they have an immediate family member with the condition, such as a parent or sibling.
Researchers are currently attempting to determine which genes may be involved in body-focused repetitive behavior, which will ultimately assist doctors in diagnosing and treating these behaviors.
People may also develop chronic cheek biting due to many other factors. For instance, stress and environmental factors may contribute to it.
Read: Insecure Attachment Style
How dangerous is cheek biting?
An injury to your mouth tissues is the primary result of repeatedly biting your cheeks. It can lead to more severe injuries such as mouth ulcers and sores.
There are a few cheek biters who have a “favorite” section of the cheek, so they tend to concentrate their chewing and biting on that portion. An irritated patch of skin can feel jagged and raw. Broken skin can also trigger compulsions to smooth the injury, causing a cycle of injury that continues or worsens.
Cheek chewing and oral cancer
Study finds no connection between chronic mechanical irritations from teeth and oral cancer, according to a 2017 study. When another cause of cancer is present, oral cancer can be exacerbated and progressed by CMI.
Psychological damage of cheek chewing
People who bite their cheeks excessively experience feelings of guilt and shame. This can leave them feeling hopeless. They will sometimes take great measures to prevent others from observing the behavior, and this can limit their social interaction and activity.
Wisdom teeth and cheek biting
You can experience irritated or even cut cheeks as wisdom teeth grow in. Regular, accidental cheek bites are most likely to cause this occurrence rather than BFRB chewing.
Read: Anxious Attachment Style
How to stop cheek biting
Visiting a dentist is a good idea if you regularly bite your cheeks. Perhaps a simple dental appliance or, in extreme cases, surgery can solve the problem.
There may be more complicated treatment options available if you have chronic cheek biting disease. Identifying whether a behavior is habitual or compulsive is the first step.
When dealing with habits such as cheek biting, light guidance, self-discipline, and patience can often be helpful. Techniques that have proven helpful for some include the following:
- Chewing gum instead of chewing on your cheeks – ask your dentist about sugarless gum
- Deep breathing when you feel tempted to chew on your cheeks
- To stop cheek biting, find out what triggers it and replace it with an alternative activity
A more complicated condition involving BFRB cheek biting and cheek chewing is compulsive BFRB cheek biting and cheek chewing. Treatment for chronic cheek biting should include both behavioral and emotional components, according to the TLC Foundation for Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors. These steps include:
- Decreasing stress levels
- Treating anxiety in a healthy way
- Eliminating triggers that lead to these Hypnosis
- Relaxation through meditation
- Meditation for awareness through mindfulness
- Therapy that utilizes cognitive behavior analysis, dialectical behavior analysis, habit reversal analysis, and acceptance and commitment analysis
Read: Preoccupied Attachment Style
Repeated biting can cause thickening, scarring, and paler tissue around the cheek. It is possible for purple spots to appear on the affected area when it becomes inflamed.
People with irregular cheek linings may feel compelled to keep biting the area to smooth it out.
It is possible for dentists to see eroded tissue in the cheek in more severe cases.
There are more than just physical complications associated with chronic cheek biting. Social activities may be avoided by those who bite their cheeks chronically.
When people engage in repetitive behaviors that focus on their bodies, they may feel shame, isolation, and a low sense of self-worth.
Many people experience chronic cheek biting, which may be the result of misaligned teeth or an accidental accident. Obsessive-compulsive disorder is correlated with chronic cheek biting, a body-focused repetitive behavior.
People with chronic cheek biting are treated with psychotherapy. Medications are sometimes prescribed as well.
Cheek biting can have physical as well as psychological complications. The shame and low self-esteem people often feel as a result of this behavior may trigger them to avoid activities related to their careers or social lives.
Treatment for chronic cheek biting will focus on treating both its underlying cause as well as its chronic nature.