Cures for Tongue Chewing

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Disorders such as nail biting and tongue chewing can have painful consequences.
Disorders such as nail biting and tongue chewing can have painful consequences. (Image: Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images)

Tongue chewing is an unconscious or partially conscious habit, and though it affects a large number of people, almost no research has been done into its formation or treatment, unlike similar disorders such as physical or verbal ticks. It is not even known how prevalent this condition is. However, anecdotal evidence suggests that certain treatments can be effective.

Habit Reversal Training

Dr. K. Eisele from the website "Doctors Lounge" suggests that the best way to cope with this kind of habit is by teaching yourself to substitute it with another habit. This can be done on your own, simply by focusing on being aware of when you start chewing and making yourself perform another activity, such as pressing your thumb into a "worry stone," a small pebble with a thumb-shaped depression in it. Alternatively, you can seek professional help for assistance with habit-reversal training. A professional therapist will help you with a combination of habit-replacement training and general-relaxation techniques to help lower your desire to chew.

Chewing While Sleeping

Unfortunately, if your problem is tongue chewing during sleep, there is very little in the way of behavioral modification that can be done to prevent it. However, a gum guard, such as those worn by athletes, will decrease any damage to your tongue and teeth by nocturnal chewing. You can buy these from almost any drugstore or sporting goods store. They can be molded to fit your teeth by placing them in warm water, which softens them, biting down and allowing the guard to cool. You can try wearing the gum guard in other situations, such as driving or reading, to see if it can stop the chewing behavior.

Hypnosis

Hypnosis can be an effective treatment for a number of nervous and compulsive behaviors. You would be guided into a deeply relaxed state of mind in which your subconscious mind would be amenable to suggestions made by the therapist. As an alternative to face-to-face hypnotherapy, CD's aimed at the cessations of tongue-chewing habits are available from accredited hypnotherapists. These allow you to treat your habit in the comfort of your own home and at a fraction of the cost of one-to-one sessions. However, not everyone can -- or should -- be hypnotized.

Acupuncture

Acupuncture is an alternative-medicine technique that involves inserting needles into the skin along particular meridians to cause changes in the way the body acts. It is a controversial therapy that lacks conclusive evidence for its efficacy or the means by which it affects the body. However, anecdotal evidence from patients receiving treatment for nervous and compulsive behaviors does suggest that acupuncture can relieve their symptoms. It may be argued that this is the result of acupuncture acting as a placebo, but because of the psychosomatic nature of this type of condition, it is hard to distinguish what exactly qualifies as a placebo and what would qualify as a "real" cure.

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