Compulsive cheek biting occurs in upwards of 750 people per million and is usually associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder. It generally affects more females than males and could be more prominent in children than adults. Cheek biting is considered a body-focused repetitive behaviour similar to hair pulling and nail-biting.
There are several reasons in which cheek biting occurs. Everyone has bitten their cheek or tongue at one point or another. It can happen as an accident while chewing or talking. If it seems to happen frequently, it can be due to a misaligned bite associated with TMJ issues, implants or loose teeth and should be addressed by your dentist. Alternatively, cheek biting can occur as compulsive behaviour, or even during sleep in a chronic way, which must be addressed.
Chronic cheek biting has a psychological cause that may have a genetic link. Therefore, if an immediate family member also has body-focused repetitive behaviour, there is a higher risk. Doctors are still trying to figure out which genes play a role in repetitive behaviours. Other risk factors are stress, emotional and environmental factors.
It is essential to see your dentist to ensure your teeth and jaw are healthy and functioning correctly. Treatment measures may be taken such as recommending a nightguard, referral to an orthodontist or referral to a doctor. Therapy options for body-focused repetitive behaviour include cognitive behaviour therapy, habit reversal training, comprehensive behaviour training, acceptance and behavioural therapy, and dialectical behaviour therapy. Medication may also be recommended.
See your dentist or doctor if you are repeatedly or compulsively biting your cheeks to receive individualized treatment. Treatment may range from a nightguard to behaviour therapy to stop the habit. Talk with your dentist/doctor about the proper treatment for you.