Can Stress Cause Me to Keep Biting My Tongue

woman holding jaw in pain in front of blue background

Tongue biting, also referred to as tongue chewing, is a habit an individual can develop in response to stress or anxiety. Tongue biting is classified as a body-focused repetitive behavior (BFRB), and can have effects ranging from discomfort to tongue injuries. In this article, we shall discuss tongue chewing, and provide some solutions for individuals who suffer from the habit.

Understanding Tongue Chewing

Tongue biting can be triggered both deliberately, or unconsciously, as a reaction to stress, heavy concentration at work, or as a coping mechanism to emotional trauma. Effects of tongue biting can result in various injuries ranging from the soreness of the tongue to other infections like ulcers from repeated tongue chewing.

Causes of Tongue Chewing

The habit of tongue biting can be brought about by various factors including stress, intense concentration, as well as health issues like misaligned teeth. Let’s discuss them below:

Stress & Anxiety

Being in a stressful environment can invertedly lead to various nervous reactions which include the physical response of tongue chewing. Emotional states such as anxiety, stress, or fear can lead to this physical response. Studies have well established that tongue biting can be a response to these emotional states, as it is a fight-or-flight response involving muscle tension on the jaw and face. The tensioning of muscles leads to a risk of tongue biting which can occur both at night or during the day. Stress management techniques like exercises and therapy are great solutions that will help one cope with tongue chewing.


Others can develop the habit of tongue biting as a means of maintaining focus during moments of intense concentration, such as at work, school, or social events. This is often a subconscious reaction that might be difficult to break away from. Being aware of facial tension during such intense moments is a great means of dealing with tongue biting.

Sleep Disorders

Common sleep disorders that can lead to tongue chewing while sleeping include sleep apnea, and teeth grinding, referred to as bruxism. These disorders can result from stress and anxiety as well. Tongue chewing during sleep leads to injuries to both the tongue and teeth. Adopting the use of mouthguards when sleeping is a great way to prevent tongue biting, and leads to better sleep as well.

Oral Fixations

Oral fixations are an unhealthy habit of tongue chewing that stems from childhood, or often developed over a prolonged period as a means to cope with stress, or to achieve relaxation thanks to its soothing nature. These impulses can be dealt with through healthier ways, including chewing gum or employing the use of sensory items like stress balls.

Nutrient Deficiencies

Nutrients help maintain an optimum oral environment which is essential to overall oral health and comfort. Lacking essential nutrients, such as vitamin B12, can lead to discomfort in the mouth, making one develop tongue biting as a response to cope. Nutritional deficiencies can be overcome by sticking to a balanced diet, supplements, and visiting a health professional.

Dental Health

Misaligned teeth are a common dental issue that often inhibits one's livelihood as it may impair speech, eating, and confidence. Misaligned teeth can also cause inadvertent tongue chewing, including as a result of using orthodontics. Corrective dental procedures are recommended as they boost teeth alignment. Regular dental checkups can also help minimize the risks.

Solutions to Tongue Chewing

Stress Management

Stress management techniques should be considered since stress is a common tongue-biting trigger. These can range from exercises like deep breathing to medication. Exercise helps lower physiological stress responses by calming the nervous system. Medication on the other hand offers a mental break, which allows one to be aware of stressors that could trigger the physical response of tongue chewing. Yoga is an effective practice that involves meditation, breathing, and physical posture exercises. Through yoga, one can break from daily stress-related routines, thus achieving relaxation and mindfulness.


Mouthguards offer a practical solution for those suffering from tongue chewing during sleep. They help prevent injury by providing a physical barrier in between the teeth and tongue. A dentist can help one obtain custom mouthguards for maximum comfort and protection. Over-the-counter mouthguards are an accessible alternative as well. The use of mouthguards consistently also helps one become more aware of their tongue-biting habit.

Behavioral Therapy

Individuals can employ psychotherapy techniques such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) in identifying and dealing with negative behaviors and thoughts that may lead to tongue biting. Recognizing situations that might trigger tongue biting through CBT is a great way of coming up with other healthier coping techniques. Habit-reversal techniques may also be employed by therapists to come up with less harmful alternatives to tongue chewing. 

Dietary Change

Lack of vitamins like vitamin B and iron are associated with sore tongues. A sore tongue resulting from these nutritional deficiencies can cause discomfort, inadvertently leading to tongue biting. Observing a healthy diet that incorporates these necessary vitamins and minerals helps promote oral health. Supplements can also be recommended by healthcare professionals to help achieve this.

Dental Procedures

Dental issues like misaligned teeth are common causes of tongue biting and call for regular visits to a dental practitioner to help with identification and correction of such. Braces and aligners are orthodontic solutions used to help align teeth correctly. Those with dental appliances can also consider adjustments and restorations to prevent the tongue from being caught between teeth.

Awareness & Mindfulness

Being aware of habits that could trigger tongue chewing is a positive step towards change that can be achieved through awareness and mindfulness practices. Being more conscious of one’s triggers helps the individual understand why they might be biting their tongue. A diary can be used to track patterns and triggers associated with tongue chewing, and one can practice mindfulness to help intervene before the tigers occur.


Tongue chewing can be substituted by other less-harmful habits such as chewing gum, as well as using straws and toothpicks. These helps keep the mouth occupied leading to fewer chances of biting the tongue. One can also start wearing rubber bands on the wrists, and gently snap on them to help remind themselves to stop tongue chewing.

Support Groups

Support groups act as a wonderful platform for sharing tongue-biting experiences between those affected. These can be either online, such as forums, or local meet-ups. Both are supportive and help create understanding and a sense of community. Individuals can be motivated to overcome tongue-chewing challenges by learning from other’s challenges and successes in the habit of tongue-biting.


These causes and solutions associated with tongue biting can help individuals find strategies to help beat the habit of tongue chewing through proactive approaches. Patience is paramount in breaking habits, and with the right approach, one can work towards overcoming these struggles healthily. Individuals struggling with tongue chewing are advised to seek professional assistance so they can figure out underlying causes, and how to best cope with the condition. Those with loved ones suffering from tongue biting can also offer a helping hand by sharing resources like these, to offer support to loved ones can overcome tongue biting and improve their overall oral health.

Self Help Strategies
Tongue Chewing