The act of tongue biting is fairly common and usually occurs by accident. Below are examples of when you might bite your tongue:
- While eating
- Post-dental anesthesia
- While sleeping
- Due to stress
- During a seizure
- When a traumatic incident occurs, such as when a fall or a bike accident occurs
- When playing sports
The tongue is one of the key muscles of the body, and it is used for vital functions like speaking, breathing and eating. Many people bite their tongues accidentally. Fortunately, most of the time there is no need to worry.
Even though it may seem like a minor injury, biting the tongue can be problematic, especially if it occurs when eating.
An accident where somebody bites their tongue can cause a lot of bleeding, which can be very frightening.
Approximately 8,000 motor units serve to move this single muscle, which is a very complicated part of the body. If you have an injury to the tongue, you might be wondering why it is so flexible and can hurt so much.
Find out how long it takes for biting tongue to heal, what to do, and how to prevent bit tongue.
Related: Lip Biting Disorder
Tongue biting causes
There may be several causes of a bit tongue, including:
- Car accidents
- Injuries from sports
- Such patterns include nail-biting and body-focused repetitive behaviors (BFRBs)
- Sleep spasms
- Unconscious chewing
Kids are more likely to bite their tongues because they tend to be more active than adults.
It is not uncommon for people suffering from epilepsy to bite their tongues during a seizure. People with epilepsy are unable to swallow their tongues during seizures.
Related: Cheek Biting Disorder
A person who bites their tongue is typically aware of how they did it, and the wound heals of its own accord.
People who hurt their tongue and go to the doctor will have their wounds examined to find out if stitches are needed.
Sleep bite is also common. It can be difficult to diagnose why this happens. The doctor may also pay attention to sleep apnea, grinding of teeth (also known as bruxism), and seizures.
Tongue biting treatment
A person can manage a tingly tongue by using home treatment most of the time. Here are some steps to follow:
- Ensure that individuals rinse their mouths with water before proceeding with treatment. The site of the wound can be seen more clearly and any blood or debris can be easily removed.
- Whenever possible, wear medical gloves when you are putting your hands in the mouth of an injured person.
- Take a look inside the mouth for any teeth fragments or objects that may be in it.
- When the tongue swells, try icing it or using ice pops wrapped in cloth. Keep ice and ice water away from the tongue.
- To stop bleeding on the tongue, press sterile gauze or a clean piece of cloth against it.
- Apply pressure for 15 minutes, and if bleeding continues, seek medical attention.
It’s important to clean the wound after every meal, so make sure you rinse your mouth with water and salt made from 1 cup of water.
Sometimes, a doctor may find it difficult to tell whether a tongue bite requires stitches, especially when it involves children. Only one study told people to stitch up tongue wounds longer than 2 centimeters (cm) unless they were at the tip.
Related: Onychophagia (Nail Biting)
Preventing tongue biting disorder is not always possible. There are a few safety tips a person can follow to avoid biting their tongue by accident:
- Make sure all adults wear their seatbelts and all children are in appropriate car seats in order to reduce any kind of injury in a car.
- While participating in any sport or activity where head and mouth injuries are possible, all players should wear a helmet, face mask, and/or mouth guard.
- Make sure the home is “baby-proofed” and that young children are protected from accidents and falls.
- Eat and chew mindfully, especially for young people.
Patients with medical conditions that could result in seizures should consult with their healthcare professionals so they can learn how to protect their tongues during a seizure.
Sleep specialists and dentists can help people find practices to treat sleep apnea and teeth grinding if they are causing tongue biting.
Read: Nail Picking Disorder
The normal healing process of a bit of tongue usually takes a few days. If the injury is severe, complications can occur. You should seek medical attention immediately to prevent complications.
- Disfigured tongue
- Impaired tongue function
- Blocked airway
An injured tongue takes a certain amount of time to heal depending on its severity. Generally, the wound heals within a week or two, but if stitches are required or a piece of the tongue needs to be reattached, it may take longer.
If you have a bit of a tongue infection, you should eat soft foods such as:
- Smooth peanut butter
- Cottage cheese
- Ice cream
- Well-cooked or canned fruits and vegetables
It is advised to refrain from eating the following foods and practices, which may irritate the damaged tissues, resulting in pain and a slower healing process:
- Fruits and juices containing citrus
- Tomatoes and tomato juice
- Spicy or very salty foods
- Using tobacco
- Drinking alcohol
Make use of over-the-counter medications, including NSAIDS like Ibuprofen (Advil) and acetaminophen (Tylenol).
Related: Hair Pulling Disorder
When to get medical help
You should seek medical treatment if you have a bit tongue.
- Serious bleeding that is not stopping
- The individual appears to be having difficulty breathing
- A fast or weak pulse
- Shallow breathing
- Skin turning pale and clammy
- Signs of infection
If bleeding is extensive, seek medical attention immediately. Biting through the tongue could have resulted in it being severed.
Someone may be able to reattach their tongue if they bite off a part of it. It is important to keep the tongue on ice until you get to the Emergency Department should this happen. Once the tongue has been severed, wrap it in a clean cloth and place it on ice.
Is tongue chewing and biting a sign of OCD?
The question you must have is, how can I tell if my tongue chewing or biting behavior is a sign of OCD, given the fact that not much research has been done on the subject? BFRBs1 are distinct from OCD, but they are related since OCD may start out as a BFRB and then become obsessional.
Chronic obsessions and compulsions are what characterize OCD2. Anxiety and distress are often the triggers of obsessions, which are recurring and unwanted thoughts and behaviors. An obsession causes anxiety, and compulsions are the responses to such anxiety.
The experience of obsessions and compulsions can be separated. It is common for individuals to experience both chewing and biting of tongues, which in this case involves tongue chewing. There can also be more than one BFRB in an individual, which could result in the diagnosis of OCD.
It usually takes a few days for people to recover from biting their tongues without the need for medical treatment.
Those with more serious, deeper bites may require more time, and they have a higher risk of complications.
It is common for sports-related injuries and other accidents to cause a biting of the tongue.
If a person notices severe bleeding and suspects more damage is being done, they should seek medical attention.
It is possible to reattach a piece of tongue that someone bites off, even if the result is negative.