Why Am I Biting My Cheek
“Bite marks on cheeks are often caused by teeth protruding through the skin and not being covered with gums. The condition is called cheiloceratitis (cheekbite) and usually occurs in people who have lost some of their upper front teeth. It also may be seen in those whose lower front teeth do not touch each other properly during chewing. In addition, it may occur because of injury from falling objects, such as lollipops. People with poor oral hygiene are more susceptible to this problem than others.
The most common cause of cheiloceratitis is loss of upper central incisors due to trauma or periodontal disease [Source: National Institute of Dental Research]. A study showed that nearly half of all patients had missing teeth at one time or another. However, there are many ways for teeth to become exposed beyond the normal gum line. When teeth are no longer covered with soft tissue or gums, they will begin to emerge through the hard layers of the skin until pressure causes them to pop up. This is how the condition begins, but it’s important to know that it does not typically progress like this. Once the tooth becomes exposed, it should remain above the gum line without popping out accidentally.
Cheiloceratitis can result from several factors including:
Plaque accumulation around the affected teeth
Degenerative bone loss around the roots of the teeth causing increased mobility
Protrusion of the marginal ridge between the teeth and gums
Pressure on the cheeks resulting from poor jaw alignment
Infection due to insufficient care of exposed root surfaces
Poorly fitting retainers or orthodontic appliances
Trauma to the face
Tumours or cysts
Side effects of certain medications
Swelling of salivary glands
There are three types of cheiloceratitis: acute, chronic and traumatic. Acute cheiloceratitis develops quickly after a blow to the face and usually heals within two weeks. Patients with chronic cheiloceratitis develop slowly over months or years. Traumatic cheiloceratitis involves injuries sustained from accidents or falls. All forms of cheiloceratitis can result in permanent scarring if left untreated.
Symptoms include pain and discomfort when eating, swallowing, smiling or talking. Other symptoms associated with cheiloceratitis include swelling, redness, pus drainage, dry socket and infection. If you experience symptoms of any kind, contact your dentist immediately. He or she can determine whether the symptoms are related to cheiloceratitis and prescribe treatment accordingly.
If you’re wondering why you’d ever want to chew so fast that you end up biting your cheek, here are just a few reasons:
You’re chatting away with someone when suddenly he says something funny or unexpected. You laugh involuntarily, which causes you to bite your cheek instead of laughing. Your friend thinks you’ve been injured somehow and rushes over to help. By the time you realize what happened, you feel embarrassed and guilty.
You’re having dinner with family or friends and get caught up in conversation. Since you don’t really eat much at these meals, you tend to put food in your mouth faster than usual. Before you know it, your tongue has pushed part of your cheek down below your teeth, making you feel self-conscious about your appearance.
You’re eating soup or salad and find yourself reaching for bread. But before you even take your first sip, you end up gobbling down the entire bowlful. As soon as you swallow, however, you notice that your cheek feels raw and irritated.
Your lip balm has leaked onto your hand and you start rubbing it against your cheek. Without thinking, you use the same hand to apply the rest of the balm to your lips, only to discover later that you bit your cheek!
You’re watching TV or reading a book and happen upon a scene where characters are fighting. Before you know it, you find yourself tensing your facial muscles and biting your cheek.
Some people actually enjoy biting their cheeks. They say it relaxes them and gives them a pleasurable sensation. Others claim that biting their cheeks relieves stress and tension. Some people use this method to relieve headaches or migraines. And then there are those who swear that biting their cheeks helps them fall asleep. Whatever the reason, we know that biting your cheek isn’t healthy — especially when done repeatedly. So why bite? To learn more about this interesting phenomenon, read on.
Why Do We Bite Our Cheeks?
We’ve already mentioned some possible reasons why you might bite your cheek. Now let’s explore some theories behind why people bite their cheeks. These explanations range from psychological issues to physical conditions.
Psychological Reasons Why We Bite Our Cheeks
Medication side effect
Obsessive compulsive disorder
Physical Conditions That Cause Us To Bite Our Cheeks
Temperomandibular joint dysfunction syndrome
Chronic sinus infections
Impacted wisdom teeth
Excessively hairy armpits
What Happens When We Bite Our Cheeks
When we press our teeth together, we create friction between the teeth and gums, which stimulates nerve endings. This results in aching sensations similar to those experienced when clenching our fists. The pressure created by pressing our teeth together also affects blood vessels near the surface of the skin. Because of this, biting our cheeks can trigger feelings of unease, anger, nervousness, sadness and depression.
We now understand why we bite our cheeks; next we’ll look at how biting your cheek can make you feel better.
How Do We Know What Feels Good?
The theory goes back to ancient times. During the Middle Ages, physicians believed that biting your fingernails could improve circulation and reduce pain. Similarly, people used to believe that biting your cheeks could increase saliva production and thus ease painful sores.
While this theory seems plausible, it’s based on superstition rather than scientific evidence. Saliva production increases when we sleep, but waking us up to produce more doesn’t work. Also, we need moisture to prevent drying and cracking of the skin, yet saliva dries the inside of our mouths. Finally, the belief that biting your cheek can alleviate soreness is contradicted by medical research.
Other popular myths surrounding cheiloceratitis include:
Chewing sugarless gum reduces the pain of cheiloceratitis. Although this is true, the underlying problem remains unaddressed.
Swallowing cold water eases the irritation of cheiloceratitis. While this works temporarily, it won’t address the underlying condition.
Holding ice cubes in your mouth can numb the pain. Not only is this ineffective, it could easily burn your mouth.
Taking aspirin or acetaminophen reduces the inflammation caused by cheiloceratitis. This is false. Ibuprofen can be beneficial, but taking aspirin can aggravate existing bleeding ulcers.
Applying a paste of baking soda to the area is said to stop the itching associated with cheiloceratitis. This is untrue.
These tips are designed to provide relief from temporary symptoms. For long-term relief, consult your doctor.
Cheiloceratitis is a relatively harmless condition, but since it can lead to permanent scarring, it’s essential to treat it promptly. See your dentist regularly to ensure proper cleaning and checkups. He or she can also refer you to a specialist if necessary.
For more information on cheiloceratitis and its treatments, please see the links on the following page.
Most cases of cheiloceratitis resolve themselves within a week or less. Keep watch for signs of infection, excessive bleeding and pain, and visit your dentist immediately if you suspect a problem.”
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