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

by Chelsea Fitzgerald

A loud yelp from your child while he is eating often means that he has bitten the inside of his mouth. This may result in a small amount of blood that turns the yelp into an ear-splitting wail. Toddler and preschool children often eat too quickly because they are anxious to return to their play, and mouth-biting is an accident caused by a mouth crammed full of food. Other children bite their cheeks deliberately as a nervous habit or out of anxiety. Training your child to avoid this habit is vital, since it can cause an infection.

Talk to your child about the importance of chewing her food slowly and not talking with her mouth full while eating. Explain that these precautions help prevent accidental cheek-biting and other dangers, like choking.

Teach your child to sit down anytime he is eating, even if it is only a snack. Focusing on the food -- rather than other activities -- helps decrease the risk of him biting his cheek.

Cut up your child's food into small, bite-sized portions before serving it to her. That way, she can't cram a large bite into her mouth and accidentally nip her cheek.

Schedule a dentist appointment to rule out any misalignment of your child's teeth if cheek-biting is a frequent problem. If misalignment is the cause, the dentist can work on correcting the problem or give you helpful tips to work around it.

Study your child while he is playing and performing other activities, but not eating. Look out for a chewing motion that means he is biting his cheek. If it happens while he's watching TV or another type of sedentary activity, this behavior is most likely a nervous habit or something to do when bored. Provide chewing gum or a mint to distract him from this bad habit. Another option is a frozen fruit treat that he can nibble on during these times.

Ask your child to confide in you if the cheek-biting behavior seems anxiety-related or she seems unhappy or depressed much of the time. If she is not willing to discuss her anxieties, consult your pediatrician. He may recommend that she see a child psychologist to determine the root of the problem.

Tip

  • Breaking bad habits often takes time and patience. Tell your child you will remind him whenever you catch him cheek-biting, but that you are not trying to be a nag. Explain that habits are hard to break even for adults, and you want to help because you care about him.

Warnings

  • Habitual biting may result in a bump or line across the inside of the cheek that is similar to a callus. Over time, this callus gets in the way of the child's teeth during chewing and talking, resulting in further injury to the area.
  • Avoid serving your child citrus, salty or acidic foods while a cut from his cheek-bite injury is healing. Foods like tomato products, citrus juices and pineapple tend to sting the area.
  • Cheek-biting makes the pain from canker sores feel worse. If you child has a canker sore, caution him to chew very carefully until it heals in a week or two.

Photo Credits

  • Seiya Kawamoto/Lifesize/Getty Images