mouth off
April 14, 2011 11:21 AM   Subscribe

I chew my mouth and I want to stop without using gum or other mouth foods as my main crutch.

In times of boredom, great anxiety, or confusion I have a nervous habit of chewing on my mouth (I occasionally pick at my fingernails in the same compulsive fashion). What I mean by that is i'll bite my teeth over a tiny part of the side of my tongue or inner cheeck till theres a sort of vaccuum seal between 2 teeth then release it with a satisfying pop. I want to stop doing this because I've been doing it everyday and with increasing frequency.

I would prefer not to have gum or other such mouth activities be the solution because as a result of either the mouth chewing itself or the stresses that lead to mouth chewing in the first place, I get canker sores fairly often and gum / hard candies / seeds irritate them.

Gimme some tips to break my habit. Please don't think I'm gross.
posted by WeekendJen to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I bite my nails. It's worst when I'm stressed. Sometimes it helps to get a manicure, but the only thing that really gets me to stop, is addressing whatever is stressing me out and making me bite my nails. (My nails always look great after a vacation.)

I don't have any good suggestions for the mouth-chewing, other than trying to examine what's going on in your life in the times when you start doing it more.
posted by pompelmo at 11:54 AM on April 14, 2011

I do this exact same thing and totally know what you mean by the vacuum seal and the satisfying pop. :)

Since you don't want to do some other mouth activity, would doing something with your hands work? I don't think I ever really do the mouth-chewing while my hands are busy. I imagine exercise might help too, by reducing general stress and anxiety.
posted by spinto at 12:33 PM on April 14, 2011

My neurologist suggested that chewing gum actually helps with certain aspects of ADD and sensory integration issues, which was why I picked my fingers, twirled my hair, chewed my lips (sounds worse than it was.) So I chew sugarless gum.
posted by Ideefixe at 12:41 PM on April 14, 2011

i do this! and quit every few months, but always start again, so i guess my quitting techniques aren't too helpful.
i realized that if i am aware that i'm doing it, and i know that i don't like it, then i won't do it. i just have to tell myself, stop, your mouth is going to hurt, you don't want to bite your cheeks. and then after a couple of days it clears up and there's no temptation... until something stressful happens, and then you just have to be strong, unlike me!
i also chew gum, because it's an oral fixation, but you don't want to do that, so maybe drinkings lots of water or applying chap stick often will help you.
posted by sabh at 12:42 PM on April 14, 2011

I'm happy someone asked this question. I have the same problem with the inside of my mouth and nails.

I know I'm doing it, but can't stop. Sometimes, when it's been weeks since I tore my mouth apart, it itches so it wants me to bite it. It gets so bad, I'll have HUGE painful canker sores from it, but I can't help it.

It happens when I'm stressed, bored, tired, or dealing with my parents divorce. Othertimes, it's just because...I don't know why.

I've done this my whole life. Things that keep me from doing it are: paying constant attention to not doing it, smoking or gum.

I hope someone has good ideas! It really bites (no pun intended).
posted by Sweetmag at 1:09 PM on April 14, 2011

I've done this all my life. When I feel like trying to control it, I try to control it, otherwise I just put it in the back of my brain. So odd.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 2:10 PM on April 14, 2011

When quitting smoking, I chewed toothpicks as a surrogate. (Gum out of the question in my case as I think it's gross.) Maybe you can chew toothpicks too, instead of your mouth. Get the round kind, not the flat or (worst of all, because of splinters) "square-cut." Park it in your face, chew as necessary; discard when it becomes messy. Repeat.
posted by Rash at 2:22 PM on April 14, 2011

I totally do this when I'm stressed out. The one thing that stops it is if I'm dating. I don't think it's because dating relieves my stress in any way (the opposite, likely), but then I'm a lot more mindful of it because I think of how gross it would be to kiss someone with a big open mouth sore and that stops me in my tracks.

So maybe bring to mind kissing someone every time you start and then think about how gross that is and you'll quit? It only works for me if it seems like a real possibility.
posted by Fuego at 7:38 PM on April 14, 2011

I completely stopped chewing my lip after learning how to meditate.
posted by parmanparman at 7:47 PM on April 14, 2011

seconding toothpicks. The tea tree oil impregnated birch kind are great. You can find them at any health food store.
posted by TheCoug at 8:33 PM on April 14, 2011

Ugh, I do this too. It always goes away when I go on vacation- so I think you owe yourself a break. Also, perhaps this means that all of us stress chewers need to meditate like parmanparman says.
posted by hooper4 at 9:50 PM on April 14, 2011

I used to do this too and then my dental hygienist (sp?) explained that it was the leading cause of mouth cancer. Apparently it causes the cells in the mouth to grow abnormally. Now every time I go to bit the inside of my mouth I just think 'cancer cancer cancer'. Which makes me stop. I don't do it anymore. Cancer is the best/worst mental refrain ever.
posted by jennyhead at 5:39 AM on April 15, 2011

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