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My son is turning 3 this June. I am really frustrated the past few weeks about my son's cheek biting habit. He started daycare last July and changed to another daycare in September last year. He had been jealous about his baby brother, who was born in May last year, too.

He started having canker sore late September last year, and we have given him pain meds to help. He had it off and on for a couple of times. The most recent time was last month. He said his mouth hurts and then we checked and it wasn't canker sore. According to the dentist, he was biting both sides - way into the back of the mouth, maybe inside cheek by his molars. His dentist thought the cuts were not from biting, since they're vertical. Biting only causes horizontal sores. He thought it's from the injury from objects put in his mouth. It happened a while back in daycare. Not sure if it's been there that long since that happened about two months ago.

His dentist's suggestion is to wean him off with the ring, and give pain meds and once it works for him, he won't ask for the teething ring anymore. In my son's mind, teething ring equals no pain. He asked for the teething ring, and we gave it to him, but he has been using it for over 3 weeks now. We wanted to break this habit, but if we take away the ring, he starts crying and screaming. So we'd given in. But I am so frustrated since he will be drooling and with a silly ring in mouth for day and night. We are going on vacation next week, and hope we can try to wean him off the teething ring. He is otherwise happy and takes the ring out of his mouth when eating. He also likes to bite my hair, and likes to touch my hair for comforting.

This week, I played with him quite a bit and he was doing OK without the ring. But as soon as he goes back to daycare, he asks for the ring. Now once again, he wanted the ring all the time.

How to wean our 3-year-old off his teething ring?

  • Hmm, sorry. I thought that you stated it was from biting his cheek. Would you mind editing your post with this new information? You may be asking something a bit different than it appears. – anongoodnurse Apr 3 '15 at 19:10
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It sounds like he's had some stressful changes in his life. He has been using a method of self-soothing that's working for him, but working less well for you.

Putting it into perspective a little bit, he can continue to bite the inside of his cheek, which not only predisposes him to canker sores, but can actually cause cancer (in a few decades, if he continues to do it - any source of chronic inflammation/accellerated cell division seen in healing can lead to cancer), as well as become a lifelong habit. Or he can use the teething ring.

If the teething ring is out, you can ask him if he'd like to suck his thumb instead (my husband actually suggested this to one of my children, who promptly became a thumb sucker, a habit we had to break her of 3 years later! Thanks a lot, DH!) Or take him to the store and let him pick out a plush toy that comforts him when stroking, that he can carry around with him.

There are many options you can choose. However, with the stressors he has had and will likely still have in the next few months, he needs a way to self-soothe, and a teething ring (or other) is a lot better than even minor self-injury. I would be a bit worried about bruxism if you take the ring away without supplying an alternative self-soothing device. The treatment of bruxism can be quite surprising.

My recommendation is to let him have it, or a substitute, for now. Three weeks isn't a very long time. Maybe the dentist can give you recommendations.

You might try to take it from him when he is less jealous and more accepting of his sibling. It does eventually happen.

  • Do you have a source on the biting cheeks give cancer thing? I'd like to read it since I bite my cheeks and always has, and I'd like to know how worried I should be. – Kitalda Mar 5 '17 at 10:32
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    @Kitalda - Look up anything about inflammation and cancer. Whatever causes chronic inflammation can lead to cancer. Whatever leads to increased cell division, e.g. healing wounds, can lead to cancer. I'm not saying the risk is high. It's just a risk. – anongoodnurse Mar 5 '17 at 14:19
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We took my daughter's pacifier away when she was almost 3 (my son never got attached to one). We told her weeks in advance that we'd hang it on the Christmas Tree and Santa would leave an extra present in exchange. We reminded her frequently so it wouldn't be a surprise and she could mentally prepare for it.

She cried a bit on Christmas Eve and missed it for about a week afterwards, then it was done.

I don't know if the exchange/bribe is "right" or the "best thing" but what I do feel is important is that she bought into it and agreed to it and had a say in it (even if coerced just a bit).

There was never any question about going back. If she had screamed and cried after it was done, we would have comforted her and then put her to bed and then let her learn to deal with it.

Kids are amazingly capable and resilient... even if they don't want to be.

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The cheek biting can be a transient tic. With tics, the more you try to legislate, the more entrenched it can get. When you get involved in a fairly pointless tug-of-war, it can be very effective to gently let go of the rope.

There are a couple of ways you can turn this so that your son gets some aspects of maturation while still satisfying his sensory needs.

  • vary the sensory input -- raw carrots, for example, are big at my house. Some children enjoy playing with an ice cube, moving it around in the mouth while it melts. There are special flossers that are easier for children to use. At this point, perfect technique is less important than getting used to the concept of flossing. Bubble water flavored with a little lemon juice or vanilla. Water-pik. Chewing gum. Etc.

  • you could assign a new responsibility along with giving a reprieve from the no-teething-ring policy. Some simple housework task that must be done before the child may go to the freezer to get a fresh teething ring (this is assuming he likes them cold, like my son does).

You can buy a couple of new shapes, for variety, and to prevent over-dependence on one particular item.

With cheek biting, I have found it helpful to make sure my child is getting lots of vitamin C (both food and supplement).

  • The idea of carrots is a good one. They can also be frozen. But isn't this child is too young to be chewing gum? – anongoodnurse Apr 3 '15 at 6:40
  • I don't know. He's a little over 2 and a half. Is there a minimum age for chewing gum? Are you worried about him swallowing it, or what? (It should, of course, be sugar free.) – aparente001 Apr 3 '15 at 7:00
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    It's a choking hazard, and in younger children there is a strong tendency to swallow it, which can cause constipation (common) or bowel obstructions requiring surgery. The AAP doesn't recommend chewing gum in young kids. In one study by the CDC, 19% of emergency Room visits for non-fatal choking in kids 14 and under were related to chewing gum. It's different from food in that it's held in the mouth for prolonged periods, One can inhale it if surprised, or while laughing or other. So, yes, swallowing it, choking, or other problems. It's a bit like sucking on a squishy marble. – anongoodnurse Apr 3 '15 at 7:21
  • thanks for the tips. yes, we've been giving him baby carrots, and he really likes to chew on them. – user14363 Apr 3 '15 at 17:16
  • All the doctors we've seen have recommended chewing gum for sensory issues. Perhaps one could start with a small amount, to reduce the risk of choking? What I don't understand about this is how a child of this age manages to eat anything but pablum if the risk of choking is as high as you seem to be saying. – aparente001 Apr 4 '15 at 19:12

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