How to Get Children to Stop Biting the Inside of Their Mouths

Many children and adults have nervous habits that can cause physical harm. Deliberate cheek or tongue biting might fit into this category. There could be a physical cause for this habit, it may occur from nervousness or a youngster might bite the inside of her mouth accidentally. Some children pick up a nervous habit for a short time and then drop it quickly with another habit taking its place.

A young girl is playing with her mother. Credit: altrendo images/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Assessing the Situation

Deliberate cheek biting differs from accidental cheek bites. If your child appears to make chewing motions with his mouth even when he's not eating or if he has small bleeding areas inside his mouth, he may be biting his cheek deliberately. If he yells when he bites his cheek and it happens infrequently, it's probably accidental. Beware -- if your youngster is biting his cheeks deliberately, then scolding, punishing and making fun of the habit won't stop the behavior and this could make the situation worse.

Dental Issues

In some cases, a misalignment of the teeth can cause a cheek-biting habit. Poorly aligned teeth don't close perfectly and the brain will look for something to put in the space with cheek biting as a way to "fill-in" the missing area, dentist Thomas Connelly explains in "Cheek Biting: Why You Bite Your Cheek and How to Stop," published on Huffington Post. Over time, cheek biting can become a habit. Have your child's bite and overall dental condition checked if she bites her cheek deliberately. The dentist may offer treatment options that can resolve the cheek biting before it becomes a permanent habit.

Biting when Tense or Anxious

Children often develop nervous habits that disappear over time. As many as 25 percent of children between the ages of 3 and 6 suck their thumbs and 23 percent bite their fingernails, according to a University of Maryland at Baltimore study published in the July 1998 "Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry." Most habits decrease with age and worsen under tension. The best thing to do with newly observed nervous habits is to ignore them, because most habits will disappear without intervention. If the habits persist, monitor your youngster for signs of anxiety. Sometimes another habit, such as chewing gum or applying lip balm, may break the habit or help your child become aware that he's doing it. If a habit doesn't disappear on its own or is causing physical harm, seek assistance from a child psychiatrist to deal with the self-harming behavior. Cognitive behavior therapy can be effective for resolving habitual cheek biting, advises the Trichotillomania Learning Center.

Ouch! Accidental Biting

If your child eats too fast or eats and drinks while talking at the same time, she may accidentally bite her cheeks or tongue frequently. In these cases, reminding your child to slow down and stop talking while chewing or swallowing may help prevent accidental bites.

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