And it’s much more common than you think!
Nighttime Tongue Biting
Nighttime tongue biting is a condition that has disturbed many people leaving them frustrated and seeking answers. Everyone has bitten their tongue at one point or another but this is mostly accidental and happens mostly when eating meals or when talking. Once in a while, it can happen while sleeping but this is normal. It can be due to having a disproportionally bigger tongue or having a set of misaligned teeth. Nighttime tongue biting becomes a problem when it is a habit.
Causes of Tongue Biting at Night
The habit of biting the tongue at night can be a result of many different situations. Some of them include:
1. Rhythmic Movement Disorder
This is a neurological disorder that mostly affects children. It involves repeated movements of the head and neck. The movements are involuntary and usually occur before and during sleep. It could last about 15 minutes. Due to the involuntary movements, the victim suffers from various injuries, among them tongue injuries caused by tongue biting. In serious but rare cases, brain and eye damage occurs.
The movements usually go unnoticed by the victim since they do not cause much pain. They only come to know about the problem after noticing the injuries on their tongue or other parts of the body. In most cases, the problem disappears as the child grows up so medical treatment may not be necessary. In adults, controlled sleep restrictions or medical drugs may be used to treat the condition.
2. Nocturnal Seizures
Some people experience seizures when they sleep. Although the condition is known as nocturnal seizures, they can occur at any time provided you are sleeping. When experiencing a seizure, you lose consciousness and involuntarily jerk your limbs. You may also lose control of your bladder or bowel. Other seizures like the frontal lobe epilepsy are calm. In both cases, you may bite your tongue causing injury to it.
People suffering from nocturnal seizures may not have any other symptom during the day making it hard to determine the cause of the tongue injuries. However, the condition can be diagnosed by observing brainwaves. Treatment for this condition includes prescription medication. Once taken, the biting stops.
3. Teeth Grinding
People with the habit of grinding their teeth while sleeping may accidentally bite their tongues.
4. Sleep Apnea
This is a condition where you experience shallow breathes or frequent pauses while breathing. In such cases, the tongue relaxes and can slip between the teeth, resulting in injury to the tongue. Doctors can prescribe treatment for sleep apnea. If the treatment is effective, the tongue biting will also stop.
5. Lyme Disease
This disease negatively affects the brain and the nervous system. Since the brain will not be functioning normally, it sends out wrong signals to the muscles and nerves thus causing involuntary movements when you are asleep. Such movements can cause you to bite your tongue when you are asleep.
6. Effect of Medication
Some prescribed medications such as antidepressants may react negatively with some people thus causing tongue biting during sleep. Once the medication is changed, the biting usually stops.
7. Dentures that are not fitted properly can cause you to bite your tongue while sleeping.
How common is it?
Tongue biting during sleep is common around the world. Some people are not aware of it yet since it can be hard to determine the problem especially when it is not as a result of an underlying illness. It may take a short while before the problem is detected. Millions of people around the world suffer from tongue biting at night due to one reason or another including the ones discussed above.
To determine approximately how many people suffer from nighttime tongue biting, we could look at the number of people suffering from bruxism, epilepsy and sleep apnea which are just few of the causes of tongue biting. 1 in 3 people suffer from excessive teeth grinding. Millions of people suffer from epilepsy with over 2 million found in the United States. Sleep apnea has more than 20 million victims in the United States with millions more found all over the world. If all these people suffer from excessive tongue biting frequently, then we may have millions of people experiencing nighttime tongue biting.
Damages Caused by Tongue Biting
1. Morsication lingarum
In frequent cases of tongue biting, the lateral sides of the tongue are affected and you develop a condition known as Morsication lingarum which only affects the tongue’s lateral sides.
2. Bleeding may occur when the biting is frequent and cuts into the tongue
3. Tongue ulcers can form as a result of tongue biting. They usually heal within 10 days
4. Your tongue may be sore after frequent biting thus making you uncomfortable
All these may make it hard for you to eat certain types of foods especially spicy ones. Speaking may become difficult and chewing food may be difficult. This becomes frustrating when you are hungry but cannot eat normally.
Prevent Damage from Tongue Biting
While biting cannot be controlled, there are measures you can take to prevent damage resulting from this habit. One of the most effective prevention methods is to wear a soft, thin custom-made night guard on both the lower and upper teeth arches.
Do not go out and buy any night mouth guard you see since one that does not fit properly can cause further oral damage. You can visit your dentist so that he can take your dental impressions, create a model and then send it out to a dental lab for it to be made specifically for you or for a more affordable alternative purchase online.
Treating Tongue Damage
If you have experienced any damages resulting from tongue biting, you can take measures to heal the tongue first as you take steps to prevent further damage. Some of the methods you can use include:
1. Using salt solution
This helps to kill bacteria and aids the tongue in the healing process. The solution should be warm with small amounts of salt. Hot water will increase pain and discomfort in the tongue.
2. Ice cubes
They help in reducing any swelling and they also numb nerves on the tongue this reducing pain and soreness
3.Avoid eating spicy foods until the tongue heals.
4. PREVENT FURTHER DAMAGE Wear soft dental night guards on both your upper and lower teeth. Choose thin 1mm guards so that they are unobtrusive and easy to sleep with. You will want custom fitted guards for the most comfort.