Lip biting is a common habit. Many people bite or lick their lips when they are nervous or concentrating on something. You may bite your lip by accident and then use your tongue and teeth to play with the sore spot.
In most cases, these actions are harmless. However, some people do them often enough to cause injury. Lip-biting syndrome is a chronic (long-term) habit that can lead to dry, peeling and sore lips. Some people may injure the lips in other ways, such as picking at them with fingernails.
Many people with this problem can injure their lips without even realizing it — for example, when they are stressed or worried.
Symptoms include sore, peeling, dry and inflamed lips. It’s more common for people to lick and bite the lower lip. As a result, it’s usually more damaged than the upper lip. The symptoms range from very mild to severe. People who injure their lips severely may have mental health problems.
To diagnose lip biting, your dentist will examine you and ask about your medical history and your habits.
Sometimes medical problems can cause swelling, dryness and cracking of the lips. These problems can be confused with lip biting. They include:
- Allergies to cosmetics, flavorings or food
- Crohn’s disease
- Cheilitis granulomatosa
Excess sun exposure can cause irritation, peeling, flaking, ulcers and white areas on the lips. These sun-related problems can lead to lip cancer. However, there is no evidence that lip biting increases the risk of lip cancer.
If your dentist or physician thinks that a disease is causing your symptoms, you will need a biopsy. A very small piece of tissue will be removed from your lip and examined under a microscope. This can show whether cancer or another medical problem is causing your symptoms.
The injuries caused by lip biting will heal once you stop biting or licking your lips.
Stopping a biting or licking habit is the only way to prevent lip-biting syndrome.
Some people can stop the habits once they are made aware of them. That is all the treatment they need. Their lips will heal on their own.
Other people cannot stop as easily. They may not be able to control their habit, or may be doing it in their sleep. For these people, dentists can provide soft splints to place on the teeth at night. The splints will help to prevent injury. Lip moisturizing creams also can help. In some cases, medicine is needed to address a mental health condition.
Your dentist or doctor may prescribe a steroid cream to apply to the lips if they are inflamed.
When To Call a Professional
If you notice that lips are very dry, blistering or inflamed, see your dentist or physician.
If you can control lip biting, the outlook for complete healing is excellent. If not, the outlook is poorer. In severe cases, you may need to visit a psychiatrist and take medicine to help you stop the habit.