How A Nail Biting Habit Affects Teeth

NAIL BITING IS A HABIT shared by a third of all children and nearly half of teenagers! This habit, unfortunately, continues many times into adulthood. Compulsive behaviors don’t always have negative effects on a person’s physical health, but this one definitely does. In addition to leaving the nails torn and uneven with damage to the nail beds, nail biting leads to a variety of oral health complications as well.

Nail Biting affects on Teeth And Gums

You might think that your teeth are much tougher than your fingernails, but over time, nail biting can cause significant damage to both teeth and gums. Here are some of the biggest ways this happens:

  • Erosion, chipping, and cracking: the grinding friction of teeth against nails can gradually wear the enamel away, or even cause teeth to chip or crack.
  • Malocclusion and gaps: biting nails doesn’t just damage the teeth, it can actually be one of the causes that allow them to move, leading to malocclusions (problems with the bite) gaps and crowding.
  • Gingivitis: a lot of dirt and germs get trapped under our fingernails, and when we chew on them, that bacteria and dirt gets transferred to our mouths, which can result in oral viruses and bacterial spread leading to gingival enlargement and swelling.
  • Bruxism: a nail biting habit will increase a person’s risk of developing a chronic teeth-grinding habit, which comes with even more oral health problems, cosmetic concerns along with headaches and soreness.

Why Does Nail Biting Happen?

If nail biting has such unpleasant consequences, then why do so many people do it? It isn’t fully understood yet, but studies have indicated that it can be an effect of anxiety, boredom, or perfectionism. Similar repetitive behaviors include skin picking and hair pulling. Often, people may not even notice themselves doing it, and this can make it much harder to stop.

Tips To Help Break The Habit

Until more is known about nail biting and what causes it, it can be difficult to know the best things to do to break the habit, but here are a few strategies that can help:

  • Trim your nails regularly so you don’t have anything to bite.
  • Get a manicure! If your nails are pretty, you’ll be more motivated to keep them that way!
  • Swap the nail biting habit with a more harmless way to fidget, like fidget spinners or a stress ball.
  • Figure out your triggers. When you know what sets off the nail biting, you can plan ahead and do something different.
  • Make stopping a gradual process. Choose one nail at a time to stop biting, and maybe cover it so you physically can’t bite it. Add more fingernails to the bite ban until there aren’t any left!

We’re “Rooting” For You!

The oral health of our patients is of course our highest priority, and that means we’re here to help you overcome habits that threaten your teeth and gums! If you need help kicking your habit, don’t hesitate to enlist ours!

We’re here to help you keep your oral health on track!

Top image by Flickr user Photo by Thomas used under Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 4.0 license. Image cropped and modified from original.

Written by Dr. Steven Davidowitz.