Morsicatio Buccarum

Calling all word nerds and vocabulary buffs!

Today I would like very much to talk about morsicatio buccarum, the condition we commonly refer to as cheek bite.  This type of chronic irritation of the cheek comes from friction and pressure.  When the teeth scrape and mash up against the inside of the cheek, our body tries to  defend itself by creating a dense and protective coating.  Simply put, it’s like a callous of sorts made up of keratin.  Once you get a dense piece of tissue that sticks out, it’s really hard to resist the urge to keep biting on it!

(I recently got a nice photo from a long time patient and she graciously allowed me to show her cheek bite off)

Let’s break down the term as we give thanks to our Latin friends for letting us borrow their words:

Morsus means bite.  Buccarum describes the buccal mucosa (inside of the cheek)…. and from there we can describe other locations of biting trauma:

Morsicatio buccarum – buccal mucosa

Morsicatio labiorum – lip tissue

Morsicatio linguarum – borders of the tongue

Now I know there are a ton of you that have a habit of biting your lip or inside of your cheek and might wonder why this would be a concern.  Us dental professionals are always on the lookout for abnormal lumps, bumps and tissue issues so that we can help prevent disease and other future dental disasters.  Although cheek, tongue and lip bites aren’t normally a problem that needs to be treated right away, it does concern us.  Here’s what we tend to think when we see these conditions:

  • You may have a nervous habit you can’t control
  • You might be stressed out
  • Your teeth may not be in a proper alignment
  • You may grind your teeth
  • Chronic irritation is not healthy
  • Missing teeth may be the culprit
  • Long term habits can lead to bigger problems
  • Dysfunction is sometimes related to sleep apnea, breathing problems, and other muscle related issues in the face.
  • In rare instances, these chronic irritations can turn into oral cancer

So, what do you do if you have a chronic irritation like these?  Of course I recommend seeing a dentist to make sure your internet diagnosis is correct.. and then follow this advice.

The first thing to try is relaxation techniques, especially when you sense that you are stressed out or concentrating really hard.  Remember to relax your face by reminding yourself “Lips Together Teeth Apart”.  Sometimes just being mindful of an issue will help you begin training yourself out of a nervous habit.

You can also have a dental guard made that protects your cheek and lips from your teeth.  Granted, it may take a while to get accustomed to wearing, but it’s well worth the effort if you allow the tissue to shrink back and heal.

In extreme cases, the affected areas can be surgically treated by your dentist or an oral surgeon and sometimes a small piece will be sent in for a biopsy.  Better safe than sorry.  Laser treatments are one of the newer procedures that basically cauterize the keratinized tissue off leaving a nice smooth surface.  I know all about this because I had a fibroma on my lip that I just couldn’t stop chewing on.  My dentist (boss) used a topical anesthetic and zapped the lesion right off!


How many lip of cheek biters do we have out there?



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