Understanding the Causes of Chronic Cheek Biting: Expert Insights

Why Are You Biting Your Cheeks? Expert Explains The Reasons For Chronic Cheek Biting

Why Are You Biting Your Cheeks? Expert Explains The Reasons For Chronic Cheek Biting

Do you frequently catch yourself biting the inside of your cheek, only noticing the damage after it’s done? This could be a compulsive behavior known as ‘Morsicatio Buccarum’, or chronic cheek biting. It differs from accidental cheek biting, which typically causes temporary pain and soreness. We consulted with Dr. Aravind MS, MD, and Associate Professor of Oral Medicine and Maxillofacial Radiology at Amrita School of Dentistry in Kochi, to explore its causes and provide assistance in stopping this habit.

What leads to cheek biting

Below are several typical reasons for cheek biting:


Dr. Aravind explains that malocclusion, characterized by misalignment or improper fitting of teeth, can result in the cheek becoming trapped between the teeth, leading to biting or chewing.

Habitual Behaviour

“Cheek biting can also manifest as a habitual behavior that gradually develops over time,” explains Dr. Aravind. He further notes that it may coincide with repetitive actions such as nail or lip biting.

Stress and Anxiety

Stress and anxiety are also significant factors contributing to cheek biting, according to Dr. Aravind. He suggests that during periods of stress or anxiety, individuals may unconsciously resort to biting their cheeks as a means of tension release.

Psychological Causes of Cheek Biting

According to a 2019 study published in the Journal of the Pakistan Medical Association, cheek biting has been linked to individuals with depression, indicating a potential psychological association with compulsive behavior. Dr. Aravind notes, “Anxiety and stress commonly trigger cheek biting. Individuals experiencing elevated levels of anxiety or stress may resort to cheek biting as a coping mechanism.” Nonetheless, the doctor also mentions additional psychological factors related to cheek biting:

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder OCD

OCD is a mental health disorder characterised by obsessive thoughts followed by compulsive behaviours. According to the doctor, cheek biting can be one of the compulsive behaviours associated with OCD.

Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors BFRBs

BFRBs encompass a range of disorders characterized by repetitive self-grooming behaviors, often leading to bodily harm. Cheek biting falls under this category of BFRBs.


Dr. Aravind suggests that individuals who are perfectionists may resort to cheek biting as a means of alleviating stress or anxiety associated with their pursuit of perfection.

Emotional regulation

Some people may bite their cheeks as a way of regulating their emotions. For example, biting the cheek may provide a sense of control during times of stress or anxiety, says Dr Aravind.

Complications To Note

Chronic cheek biting can lead to various complications. Dr. Aravind warns, “Persistent cheek biting may induce cancerous alterations.” He explains that scientific evidence indicates prolonged trauma can trigger pre-cancerous changes in the oral mucosa. Additionally, some other potential risks include:

  • Potential risks associated with chronic cheek biting include:
  • Pain and discomfort in the mouth, leading to difficulties in eating, drinking, and opening the mouth.
  • Mouth sores and ulcers that may take an extended period to heal.
  • ncreased susceptibility to infections.
  • Scarring in the oral cavity.
  •  Dental issues like tooth decay, gum disease, and tooth sensitivity.
  • Psychological distress such as anxiety, embarrassment, and diminished self-esteem.

Dr. Aravind advises, “If you’re dealing with chronic cheek biting, it’s advisable to consult a dental or medical expert to identify the root cause and consider treatment options.” Treatment strategies may encompass addressing underlying psychological factors, dental interventions, or employing habit reversal techniques to overcome the habit of cheek biting.

Ways to Prevent Chronic Cheek Biting

  • For individuals diagnosed with chronic cheek biting, here are strategies to halt the habit:
  • Recognize the situations or emotions triggering cheek biting.
  •  Utilize a mouth guard to prevent the cheek from being caught between teeth, reducing the urge to bite.
  • Engage in mindfulness techniques like deep breathing or meditation to increase awareness and control over the habit.
  • Consider Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to address and modify negative thought patterns and behaviors.
  • Explore Habit Reversal Training (HRT), a behavior therapy aimed at identifying cues and behaviors linked to cheek biting, and replacing them with healthier alternatives.


Eliminating cheek biting may prove challenging and demand patience along with significant self-regulation efforts. Seeking assistance from a healthcare professional is advised when necessary. Adhering to the aforementioned measures can contribute to breaking the habit of cheek biting.