Does it feel like your tongue is obsessed with your teeth? A habit of shoving your tongue against the back of your teeth can indicate anxiety.
Usually, this habit is your body’s way of responding to a perceived threat (real or imagined). However, this tongue movement in response to anxious thoughts and feelings can be uncomfortable and unhealthy, especially if you can’t control the movement.
If you keep up the habit, your teeth will become too sensitive, and you might eventually hurt your tongue and suffer from decreased oral health overall.
Keep reading to learn simple but effective techniques for overcoming rubbing tongue against teeth anxiety.
What Is Rubbing Tongue Against Teeth Anxiety?
Tongue rubbing against the teeth is one of the many oral symptoms of high stress and anxiety levels. It is similar to body-focused repetitive behaviors (BFRB), like chronic lip biting, hair pulling, nose picking, and nail biting.
In addition to causing physical discomfort and bodily damage, the problem can make you self-conscious, especially in public.
Some people tend to rub their tongues against their teeth when they have cavities. But if a dentist has checked and ruled out cavity issues, the problem or behavior is likely caused by excessive worry or anxiety.
Keep in mind that shoving your tongue against the back of your teeth does not indicate a health problem. Nearly everyone does this occasionally.
However, it is a problem when the tongue-teeth rubbing action becomes a bad habit. You should look for self-help solutions for breaking the bad habit or seek professional help because there’s a high chance that you have anxiety that may be causing the behavior.
If you fail to seek help for this problem, it can ultimately cause tooth damage, including tooth decay, gum recession, or even jaw pain.
The Link Between Anxiety and Your Tongue
Everyday stressful situation can cause anxious feelings, and that’s normal. For example, a job interview or public speaking can make you nervous.
However, persistent, intense, or excessive fear and worry might indicate an underlying health problem, especially when the anxious feeling interferes with your daily life.
Anxiety can cause several weird oral sensations and activities, including teeth grinding, jaw clenching, and pressing or rubbing your tongue against your teeth.
Other uncomfortable sensations in the tongue linked to anxiety include:
- Burning sensation
- Signs of swelling
- A prickling or tingling sensation
These are symptoms of psychogenic lingual paresthesia.
But why exactly do people rub their tongues against their teeth when anxious? What’s the link between the tongue and anxiety?
Here’s a simplified explanation.
The muscles in the tongue are part of the automatic or involuntary nervous system. This means some of your tongue movements can happen without your conscious effort.
For example, you may discover that your tongue is persistently trying to dislodge something stuck between your teeth, even when you are unaware of your tongue movement.
In connection to anxiety, we tend to hold tension in our tongues when stressed. And we do this without realizing it.
Here’s something I suggest you try the next time you notice that you are stressed, fearful, or uneasy.
Gently bring your awareness to the position of your tongue in your mouth during your tense moments. You will probably discover that your tongue is pressed against the roof of your mouth. This is one common way to know you are tense.
By the way, anyone can press their tongue against the roof of their mouth, whether or not they have anxiety.
Effective Techniques for Overcoming Rubbing Tongue Against Teeth Anxiety
Like other body-focused repetitive behaviors, overcoming the problem of rubbing the tongue against teeth involves habit reversal techniques.
I’ve included two effective techniques to help you break this habit. However, remember to treat any underlying anxiety disorder issues.
Technique 1: Tongue Relaxation
You can use the tongue relaxation technique wherever and whenever you feel like it, but it is usually best to do it where it is convenient to close your eyes for a few minutes.
- Start by closing your eyes to help you focus.
- Next, tense your tongue by pressing it against the roof of your mouth. Do this for a few seconds and allow your tongue to relax.
- On your next exhale, let your tongue relax more (you can open your mouth slightly to fully relax the tongue).
- Increase the relaxation, ensuring the back of your tongue is completely relaxed.
- Keep your tongue in this relaxed state for a few minutes and repeat as many times per day as you can.
It is okay to swallow during the relaxation exercise. Your tongue might get tensed while performing the exercise ― that’s normal. Just focus on getting it back to a relaxed state.
Technique 2: Keeping Your Tongue Still
This technique requires a little bit of imagination. Although it is very simple to do (even kids can do it), it produces multiple positive effects.
First, it gives you better control of your tongue and can help quiet your mind.
Even if you don’t have a habit of rubbing your tongue against the back of your teeth, this technique can help you halt negative mind chatter and focus on more positive thoughts.
Here’s how to still your tongue:
- Imagine a tiny drop of oil on the tip of your tongue.
- Hold that image in your mind as you carefully raise your tongue to the roof of your mouth, keeping the imaginary oil balanced on your tongue’s tip.
- Hold your tongue in that positive for as long as comfortable. This stops your tongue from moving and quiets your mind.
Repeat the exercise as many times as you like.
When to Seek Professional Help
If these habit reversal techniques don’t seem to stop your rubbing tongue against teeth anxiety, consider seeking help from a physician.
Usually, treating an anxiety disorder can help relieve or stop the problem, and your doctor is in the best position to recommend the most effective anxiety treatment for your case and mental health.
Also, be sure to visit a dentist for a check-up. You might have cavities or other oral problems that make your tongue involuntarily press against your teeth.
We all occasionally push our tongues against the back of our teeth and experience other involuntary tongue movements at certain times. However, this tongue movement can indicate unhealthy anxiety levels if it becomes a habit.
Use the techniques above to relax your tongue and break the habit. Remember to seek expert help in reducing anxiety. Consider checking out this post to learn ways to manage intense night anxiety.