Why Do I Keep Accidentally Biting My Tongue?

Understanding Tongue Biting

June 25, 2024 Written By: Joyce Kahng, DDS

Have you ever wondered, “Why do I keep accidentally biting my tongue?”

Below is information exploring the causes, prevention strategies, and treatment options for frequent tongue biting. Understanding this common problem is the first step towards a healthier, happier mouth.

Understanding Tongue Biting

Accidental tongue biting, a common experience for many, can occur while eating, talking, or even sleeping. While occasional instances are usually minor inconveniences caused by a momentary lapse in coordination, frequent biting can be a sign of underlying issues. Understanding these causes is crucial in determining the best course of action for prevention and treatment.

Underlying Causes of Tongue Biting

While accidental tongue biting can occur sporadically, persistent or frequent incidents often have underlying causes. These causes can be categorized into medical conditions, lifestyle factors, and other contributing factors:

Medical Conditions

  • Malocclusion: Misaligned teeth or a misaligned jaw can significantly increase the risk of tongue biting. When the teeth don’t fit together properly, the tongue can easily get caught between them during chewing or speaking.
  • TMJ Disorders: Issues with the temporomandibular joint, which connects the jawbone to the skull, can cause jaw pain, clicking, and limited movement. These problems can also affect the coordination between the tongue and jaw, leading to accidental biting.
  • Sleep Disorders: Bruxism (teeth grinding or clenching) and sleep apnea can contribute to tongue biting, especially during sleep. The involuntary movements associated with these disorders can trap the tongue between the teeth.
  • Neurological Conditions: Certain neurological conditions affecting muscle control and coordination can increase the likelihood of tongue biting due to impaired oral motor function.

Lifestyle Factors

  • Stress and Anxiety: These can lead to subconscious habits like teeth clenching or grinding, which can increase the risk of tongue biting.
  • Medications: Some medications can cause dry mouth or other side effects that may affect oral coordination and increase the chances of biting the tongue.
  • Tobacco and Alcohol Use: These substances can negatively impact oral health and potentially contribute to tongue biting.

Other Factors

  • Sharp or Broken Teeth: These can easily catch and cut the tongue, leading to accidental biting.
  • Ill-Fitting Dentures or Braces: Improperly fitted dental appliances can irritate the tongue and increase the risk of biting.
  • Tongue Piercings: The jewelry can get caught between the teeth and cause accidental biting.

When to Seek Professional Help

While occasional tongue biting is usually harmless, it’s essential to recognize when professional help is needed. If you experience any of the following, it’s advisable to consult a dentist or doctor:

  • Frequent or Severe Tongue Biting: If you find yourself biting your tongue regularly or experiencing severe bites that cause significant pain or bleeding, it’s important to seek professional evaluation. Frequent biting can indicate an underlying issue that requires attention.
  • Persistent Pain, Swelling, or Bleeding: If the pain, swelling, or bleeding from a tongue bite doesn’t subside within a reasonable timeframe, it could signal a more serious injury or infection. Professional assessment can ensure proper treatment and prevent complications.
  • Difficulty Eating or Speaking: Tongue biting that interferes with your ability to eat or speak comfortably warrants professional attention. Underlying conditions affecting oral motor function may need to be addressed to improve your quality of life.
  • Suspicion of an Underlying Medical Condition: If you suspect that your tongue biting might be related to a medical condition like malocclusion, TMJ disorder, a sleep disorder, or a neurological issue, seeking professional diagnosis and treatment is crucial for managing the underlying cause and preventing further complications.

Prevention and Treatment of Tongue Biting

Addressing and preventing tongue biting involves a multi-faceted approach that targets the underlying cause and implements protective measures.

Addressing Underlying Causes

  • Orthodontic Treatment: If malocclusion (misaligned teeth) is the culprit, orthodontic treatment like braces or aligners can correct the alignment, reducing the risk of tongue biting.
  • Managing Stress and Anxiety: If stress or anxiety is a trigger, adopting relaxation techniques like meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises can help reduce teeth clenching or grinding, minimizing the chances of biting the tongue.
  • Treating Sleep Disorders: For individuals with bruxism or sleep apnea, seeking appropriate treatment can alleviate the involuntary movements that contribute to tongue biting.
  • Medical Intervention: In cases where tongue biting is linked to a neurological condition or medication side effects, consulting a doctor for appropriate management or medication adjustment is essential.

Protective Measures and Lifestyle Changes

  • Mouthguards: Wearing a mouthguard, especially during sleep or activities with a high risk of trauma, can create a barrier between the teeth and tongue, preventing accidental biting.
  • Dietary Modifications: Avoiding hard, crunchy, or chewy foods that require excessive tongue movement can minimize the risk of biting.
  • Mindful Eating: Paying attention to chewing and swallowing deliberately can help prevent accidental tongue biting during meals.
  • Avoiding Triggers: Identifying and avoiding triggers like specific foods, alcohol, or stressful situations can reduce the likelihood of tongue biting episodes.

Seeking Professional Advice

If you find that self-care measures are not enough to address your tongue biting, it is crucial to seek professional guidance. A dentist or doctor can conduct a thorough examination, diagnose any underlying conditions, and develop a personalized treatment plan. They may recommend orthodontic treatment, physical therapy for TMJ disorders, or other interventions depending on the specific cause of your tongue biting. Remember, early intervention can prevent further complications and ensure optimal oral health.

Keep Your Tongue Healthy

While occasional tongue biting is a common occurrence, persistent or severe instances warrant attention. By understanding the underlying causes, taking preventive measures, and seeking professional help when needed, you can effectively address this issue and maintain a healthy, comfortable mouth. Remember, a healthy tongue is essential for proper chewing, speech, and overall well-being. So, don’t hesitate to prioritize your oral health and seek the necessary care to prevent and treat tongue biting.

Smile Smarter,
Dr. Joyce

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