Updated on February 7, 2024
5 min read

Is It Harmful to Bite Your Lip?

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Lip biting is a common occurrence. As an occasional accident, it’s usually nothing to worry about. But if you find yourself repeatedly biting your lips, deliberately or not, it should be a cause for concern.

It’s easy to accidentally bite your lips, especially your lower lip, just as it’s easy to bite your tongue or cheek. You’re always using your teeth to talk and eat, and sometimes the soft tissues in your mouth end up in the way.

However, frequent lip biting, or lip biting during sleep, likely indicates an underlying problem. In this article, we’ll discuss what causes lip biting, the effects of repeated lip biting, and how to stop.

Effects and Risks of Habitual Lip Biting

A persistent lip-biting habit can cause further problems over time. 

While these aren’t likely life-threatening, they may be painful or distressing. They include:

  • Lip soreness and inflammation, including fibromas
  • A greater risk of the area becoming infected
  • Visible redness or damage to your lip
  • Jaw pain or headaches
  • Additional stress or guilt due to the above

What Causes Lip Biting? 

Both physical and psychological issues can cause frequent lip biting.

For example, malocclusion (tooth and/or jaw misalignment) is a physical condition that can cause repeated lip biting. Underbites, overbites, and crossbites are all forms of malocclusions.

Malocclusion of the Teeth

While it’s easy for anyone to bite their lip, misaligned teeth increase the risk. Your lip can experience frequent injuries if your teeth constantly touch it or your mouth doesn’t close properly.

A TMJ disorder affecting your jaw joint is another potential physical cause of lip biting. Your lips could also be dry and flaky, leading you to habitually bite the loose skin.

On the other hand, stress and anxiety can be psychological reasons for frequent lip biting. It starts as a response to a stressful situation, chronic anxiety, or physical exertion. Over time, it becomes a habit.

Is Lip Biting a Sign of a Disorder?

If you frequently bite your lip and don’t have any major dental or jaw issues, it may be a body-focused repetitive behavior (BFRB).

BFRBs are compulsive, self-grooming behaviors. Other examples include nail biting, skin picking, and hair pulling. These habits can be considered part of a disorder when they interfere with your daily life and overall well-being.

It’s possible your lip biting isn’t severe enough to impact your daily functioning. However, you might still want to stop. Lip biting is easily treatable and/or can be replaced with better habits.

Why Am I Biting My Lower Lip While Sleeping?

If you bite your lower lip during sleep, it might be related to nocturnal teeth grinding. Teeth grinding (bruxism) is a common habit often caused by chronic stress or anxiety. It can occur while you’re awake or asleep.

Muscle spasms, nocturnal seizures, and other sleep problems or jaw issues can also cause you to bite your lip, cheek, or tongue during sleep.

Does Lip Biting Affect Oral Health?

Chronic lip biting isn’t likely to directly affect your teeth or gums, but it isn’t good for your lips.

If you bite your lips due to them being chapped or dry, the habit will likely worsen the problem. It’s a form of repeated trauma to your lips, which can lead masses of scab-like tissue (fibromas) to develop. It can also lead to an infection if you constantly reopen the wound.

Habitual lip biting can also contribute to TMJ (jaw joint) issues and/or make chewing muscles sore.

How Can I Stop Biting My Lip?

Various tools and methods are available to help stop lip biting during sleep or in general.

These include alternative habits or coping strategies you can practice on your own and professional treatment options for both physical and psychological causes. 

To help prevent compulsive lip biting at home, you can try the following:

  • Relaxation techniques — Meditation, deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and other practices can help you manage stress, alleviate anxiety, and handle painful emotions.
  • Physical exercise — An aerobic and weight training routine can reduce muscle tension and engage pathways in your brain that help fight anxiety. It can also divert your attention away from your anxiety.
  • Relieving dry lips — Moisturizing and exfoliating your lips will prevent them from becoming dry and flaky.
  • Replace the habit — Notice when you feel the urge to bite your lip, and try to replace it with a healthier habit. This could be one of the above, taking a drink of water, chewing gum, or something else entirely.

Professional Treatment

Professional treatment may be helpful or even a requirement for addressing chronic lip biting. Depending on the cause and severity of your habit, this may include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) — Various CBT methods, such as habit reversal training, allow therapists to help people reduce or stop anxiety-induced habits.
  • Medication — If anxiety is contributing to the issue, a doctor might recommend antidepressant or antianxiety medication.
  • Physical therapy — Physical therapy may provide relief if your lip biting has to do with a TMJ (jaw joint) issue.
  • Orthodontic treatment — If you bite your lips frequently due to misaligned teeth, braces or clear aligners may be helpful. If you have a misaligned jaw, corrective jaw surgery may be recommended.
  • Mouthguards — Some experts prescribe mouthguards to wear during the day or night to help with bruxism.

Outlook for Lip Biting

With such a broad range of tools and techniques available, lip biting can be addressed effectively for different people. Whether the cause is physical or psychological (or both), there is likely a treatment modality that will work for you.

According to Dr. Nandita Lilly, NewMouth’s in-house resident dentist, “It’s essential to understand the underlying cause of lip biting so appropriate treatment can be recommended.”

Remember that even once the habit is gone, it’s still possible to accidentally bite your lip, which is normal. Occasionally biting your lip generally isn’t anything to worry about.

Summary

Lip biting is relatively common. It can be an effect of physical, underlying dental/jaw issues, or psychological issues (like anxiety).

In either case, professional treatments exist to help eliminate repeated lip biting. You can also take steps at home to prevent you from continuing the habit.

Talk to your doctor or dentist if you’re concerned about how often you bite your lip. They can help you establish the root cause and develop a plan for treatment.

Last updated on February 7, 2024
8 Sources Cited
Last updated on February 7, 2024
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
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  2. What is a BFRB?” The TLC Foundation for Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors.
  3. Golomb, Ruth, et al. “Expert Consensus Treatment Guidelines: Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors.” The TLC Foundation for Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors, 2016.
  4. Gopalakrishnan, Supriya, et al. “Management of Lip Biting Using Clear Aligner/Clear Retainer.” Journal of Indian Orthodontic Society, 2020.
  5. Cohen, Philip R. “Biting Fibroma of the Lower Lip: A Case Report and Literature Review on an Irritation Fibroma Occurring at the Traumatic Site of a Tooth Bite.” Cureus, 2022.
  6. Almutairi, Adel F. “Association of oral parafunctional habits with anxiety and the Big-Five Personality Traits in the Saudi adult population.” The Saudi Dental Journal, 2021.
  7. Karaçay, Şeniz, et al. “Treatment of Habitual Lip Biting: A Case Report.” Turkish Journal of Medical Sciences, 2006.
  8. Ratey, John J. “Can exercise help treat anxiety?” Harvard Health Publishing, 2019.
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