Common Side Effects Of Cheek Biting

Woman holding cheek in pain

Like lip biting and hair pulling, we may not think much about biting our cheeks frequently. It may feel like a regular occurrence, especially if you’re stressed. However, you may notice the severity when it becomes complex to control the urge to bite your inner cheek, and you are constantly nursing injuries from these bites. These stress habits are also known as body-focused repetitive behaviors and are usually triggered by stressful or anxiety episodes. 

You may find yourself biting your inner cheek as a coping mechanism to get a few moments of relief. Cheek biting is a self-destructive habit that can cause many oral health concerns. Let's review some of the harmful consequences of this habit.

Changes in Bite Alignment

Constant biting of cheeks is often associated with teeth grinding, which may result in a shift in bite alignment if done for a prolonged period. Change in bite alignment results in severe dental issues, including uneven wear on teeth. Additionally, severe malocclusion can cause chewing and speech problems. Being adequately aligned also makes it easy to brush your teeth, thus avoiding any bacteria build-up.

Pain and Discomfort

Constantly biting your inner cheek, results in sore wounds that can be painful and uncomfortable. These wounds can make it hard to do basic things such as eating, brushing your teeth, or even consuming beverages. The discomforts also increase your stress levels since it leaves you feeling helpless. The repeated trauma inside the mouth can result in mouth ulcers, which further exacerbate the situation, and you may even find it difficult to speak. The open sores will take time to heal, especially if you cannot stop biting on them.


Cheek biters often prefer to bite a particular spot on their inner cheek, which causes erosion of the soft tissue, thus causing inflammation. The irritation from the inflammation can be uncomfortable and lower your quality of life. As the skin becomes smooth from continuous biting, the underlying tissue gets damaged, and you may experience swelling in such areas, which later forms purple spots. Aside from the inflammation, cheek biting may also cause scarring on the affected area, especially if the wounds do not heal well before reinjuring.


The oral cavity is known to have the second largest and most diverse bacteria, creating a conducive room for the growth of bacteria, fungi, and viruses. Having open wounds in your mouth leaves you vulnerable to infections. Practicing good oral hygiene with a sore in the mouth can be challenging, thus creating a breeding environment for bacteria. If the bitten area gets infected, it may lead to additional complications.

Low Self-esteem

Most individuals dealing with BFRBs often prefer to break off from such habits, so they seek professional assistance. The self-inflicted injuries not only harm them physically but can also be emotionally overwhelming. The shame of this damaging habit may cause you to limit your social interactions. Such an emotional burden only adds to the stress of dealing with the repetitive behavior and further complicating things.

Increased Risk of Oral Cancer

Although it’s a rare occurrence, chronic irritation and trauma to the oral tissues heighten the risk of developing oral cancer. However, it is crucial to understand that such risks are usually associated with long-term and severe cases of cheek biting and irritation. Therefore, there is a need to mitigate cheek-biting episodes before they become more harmful to one's health. Managing such habits at an early stage can help you find healthier stress and anxiety coping mechanisms. So, if you find yourself biting your cheeks frequently, it is essential to seek professional help. They can help diagnose the condition and the underlying cause and develop strategies to break it off.

Therapies Available For Cheek-Biting

There is a wide range of therapies and solutions for managing cheek biting. These treatments are usually tailored to one specific need since different individuals have different battles despite experiencing similar conditions. Some people may be chronic cheek biters while others do it by accident, usually when they are experiencing a lot of tension. Regardless of the severity of the condition, several therapies can help you break this habit.

Behavioral Therapy

The primary behavioral therapy used by most professionals to reverse this condition is cognitive behavioral therapy, which aims to help an individual identify and change the thoughts and behaviors that spiral their cheek biting out of control. It also focuses on helping you to develop healthier habits to manage stress and anxiety.

Stress Management

Stress management is a core component in the recovery process when dealing with BFRBs such as cheek biting. You have to implement various relaxation techniques to keep your mind settled. Some of the best relaxation techniques include meditation, deep breathing, and progressive muscle relaxation. All of these techniques can help relieve you, both physically and mentally, from stress. Stress management is a gradual process that requires finding a specific stress reduction technique suitable for you. Another form of stress management is self-monitoring, which involves writing journals to track when and how cheek biting occurs. Such monitoring makes you more aware of your triggers, making it easy to contain them. Having a pattern for your triggers helps you adopt targeted interventions.

Habit Reversal Training

This form of therapy aims to make you more aware of your behaviors and teaches you how to adopt positive behaviors and deal with negative ones. The training takes a three dimension approach: awareness training, competing response training, and social support. 

  • Under awareness training, your attention is brought to circumstances under which cheek biting is likely to occur. 
  • Competing response training helps you learn more about healthier coping mechanisms that you can adopt when stressed or anxious to avoid biting your cheek. 
  • The social support section involves tagging friends and relatives throughout recovery. Friends and relatives can learn more about the condition, give positive feedback, and motivate you to stick to your competing responses. They may also cue the person to create reminders when an individual faces their triggers. In a way, the social support becomes more like an accountability partner.

Oral Appliances

Mouthguards or bite splints will protect your oral soft tissues from getting injured since they create a barrier between your cheeks and teeth, reducing the chances of accidental biting. Additionally, you can chew gum to distract you from biting your cheeks. Such distractions help lower the urge to keep biting on your cheek, thus letting the existing wounds heal well without getting infected.


Hypnotherapy also involves awareness training so that you can change the subconscious factors that contribute to cheek biting. This form of therapy helps you take charge of your habits. You can also include mindfulness therapy as part of this awareness training. Cultivating mindfulness is essential in assisting you to be more aware of your habits and reactions. Such increased awareness allows you to then develop more control and the appropriate response to counter the urge to bite one's cheeks.

Summing Up

Cheek biting, though seemingly harmless, can lead to a cascade of oral health complications and emotional distress. If you find yourself frequently biting your cheeks, don't hesitate to seek professional help. There are various therapies available, from cognitive behavioral therapy to stress management techniques, to help you overcome this habit and achieve a healthier and happier you.

Self Help Strategies
Cheek Biting