You probably know someone who bites his or her nails. Chances are, it’s a smaller child, but nail biting is a hard habit to break, so you may know an adult who still has the habit.
Gnawed nails are an unsightly and germy habit. But did you know biting your nails could actually damage your teeth?
This article looks at the unexpected consequences of what is really a nervous habit.
Stop Biting Your Nails
Biting nails usually starts in childhood. A common refrain is, “Stop biting your nails,” and in fact, it is much less common after age 18. Insurance carrier Humana says 60% of children and 45% of teenagers bit their nails. Up to 30% of adults continue the habit.
While nail biting is generally a stress response, it can also be tied to nervous behaviors or frustration. No matter the cause, the one thing that nail biting can cause is damage to your teeth. Humana puts it this way, “Nail-biting concentrates force in one spot and can result in a fracture of the tooth.”
Nail biting can also damage gum tissue from jaded or sharp fingernail edges. It can also spread bacterial around the body from the mouth to the bloodstream.
Nail biting can chip a tooth or break a dental restoration. It can even contribute to TMJ, a painful inflammation of the jaw muscles. Biting your nails stresses out your joints and is a risky move for your dentition. An article on the Colgate website says, “Children or adults who bite their nails could crack or wear down their front teeth from the stress caused by biting.”
So, while nail biting is a bad habit, like a lot of bad addictions, it can be tough to stop.
Quitting Nail Biting
For adults or kids that bite their nails, quitting the habit can be very hard. Here are some suggestions for ways to stop:
- Keep nails short so there is less surface to chomp down on.
- Get your nails manicured – spending money on your nails may create a psychological barrier to biting your nails.
- Since nail biting is tied to stress, perhaps taking a meditation class or going to yoga regularly.
- There is also a bitter nail polish you can use to dissuade the nail-biter from chewing on their nails.
- Google pictures of the bacteria under your nails. Print it out and tape it in places (like your car) where you might normally start biting. Trust us, when you see what’s lurking under your nails, it might turn you off of the habit for good!
- Other kinds of aversion therapy include putting a rubber band on your arm and snapping it every time you engage in the bad habit.
If you’re worried about your teeth, make sure you’ve scheduled your next check-up with our team. We can talk with you about ways to help stop nail biting in you or your family member, and give your teeth and gums a good looking over to be sure no permanent damage has been done.