In most cases, these actions are harmless. However, some people do them often enough to cause injury. Lip-biting syndrome is a chronic (long-term) habit that can lead to dry, peeling and sore lips. Some people may injure the lips in other ways, such as picking at them with fingernails.
Many people with this problem can injure their lips without even realizing it — for example, when they are stressed or worried.
Sometimes medical problems can cause swelling, dryness and cracking of the lips. These problems can be confused with lip biting. They include:
Excess sun exposure can cause irritation, peeling, flaking, ulcers and white areas on the lips. These sun-related problems can lead to lip cancer. However, there is no evidence that lip biting increases the risk of lip cancer.
If your dentist or physician thinks that a disease is causing your symptoms, you will need a biopsy. A very small piece of tissue will be removed from your lip and examined under a microscope. This can show whether cancer or another medical problem is causing your symptoms.
Other people cannot stop as easily. They may not be able to control their habit, or may be doing it in their sleep. For these people, dentists can provide soft splints to place on the teeth at night. The splints will help to prevent injury. Lip moisturizing creams also can help. In some cases, medicine is needed to address a mental health condition.
Your dentist or doctor may prescribe a steroid cream to apply to the lips if they are inflamed.