Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"
I am 28 years old and I have a bad habit of chewing on the inside of my cheeks, on the bottom inside of my mouth and on my tongue. I am really worried about getting oral cancer, but I just can't seem to control this habit. My PCP put me on an anxiety med that didn't help me stop the habit. What can I do to stop from doing this?
Kendra Schaefer, DMD, Assistant Professor in the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, Division of Prosthodontics at the University of Pennsylvania, responds:
There is an unproven school of thought that any sort of constant trauma can cause cancer or dysplasia. However, there is no documented evidence of this ever occurring in any of our medical journals. I also have yet to see anything like this clinically. Habits that are known to increase the risk of developing oral cancer include chronic tobacco (cigarettes and chewing tobacco) and/or alcohol use.
Medications like anti-anxiety meds are not meant to be a catch-all solution, they are meant to work in combination with therapy. It sounds like you might benefit from behavior modification or psychological counseling to get to the bottom of why you have this habit. If nothing else, you risk developing infection and scarring from repeated injuries to these tissues, so it is worth trying to stop.