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Dunn Pediatric Dentist Shares Tips to Help Kids with Chronic Cheek Biting

For most people, a cheek or lip bite is an occasional, painful accident. But some children develop the “bad habit” of chewing their soft cheek tissue absentmindedly, a habit that can persist into adulthood. If you observe your child purposefully biting their cheek, here’s some insight into next steps from our Dunn pediatric dentist.

Why Do Children Bite Their Cheeks?

For some children, biting cheeks is a result of jaw misalignment that makes chewing difficult. But those who chronically bite their cheeks do so when they feel anxious, stressed, or bored—in other words, the same reason kids suck their thumbs, or bite their nails. And, like those habits, cheek biting can have some negative consequences if it persists.

Risks of Chronic Cheek Biting

The primary consequence of repeatedly biting the inside of the cheek is injury to the soft mouth tissue, which can lead to mouth sores and ulcers.

In severe cases, the broken, jagged sensation of the bitten skin creates an additional compulsion to ‘smooth out’ the affected area by biting again, perpetuating the habit. Deep and repeated cheek biting may, in the worst and extremely rare instances, may cause changes to the cheek cells that result in oral cancer.

How to Curb This Behavior

Habitual cheek biting can often be addressed with light guidance, positive reinforcement, and patience. If you are concerned that cheek biting is becoming an issue for your child, begin by observing your child’s behavior and what tends to triggers the action. If you suspect anxiety is to blame, talk to them about what they’re feeling, and work with them to find a healthier way to manage stress. If the practice is a result of boredom, find new stimulating activities for them to enjoy, such as “fidget spinners” and other toys. Giving your child sugar-free chewing gum can also give them a safe outlet for the urge to chew.

If the cheek-biting behavior is more of a compulsion than a habit, you may want to investigate whether an underlying condition is a factor, such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Attendion Defficit Disorder or Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Talk therapy, medications, and mindfulness training can help with these conditions.

How Our Dunn Pediatric Dentist Can Help

If you are worried about your child’s cheek biting, stop by Dunn Pediatric Dentistry. Our trained children’s dentists can help educate your child on the ramifications of the habit, and help them identify healthier ways to express nervous energy or boredom. Your dentist can also evaluate whether an underbite or overbite is exacerbating the issue, and map out a treatment. If you’d like to schedule an appointment, please fill out our contact form here.