Nail biting may seem to be a harmless habit, but that is far from the truth. It is a habit worth dropping because much more than your manicure can suffer. It can also negatively affect your oral health.

Both children and adults who bite their nails can crack, chip or wear down their front teeth from the stress of chronic nail biting. If you wear braces you are at greater risk of tooth damage, particularly root resorption which is a shortening of the roots, because your teeth are already under increased stress and pressure from the braces.

nail biting and oral healthRisks of Nail Biting

It is also being reported that people who bite their nails, chew on things like pencils or clench their teeth may have an increased risk of developing bruxism, which is unintentional grinding or clenching of the teeth. Bruxism can cause facial or jaw pain, headaches, tooth sensitivity, recessed gums and tooth loss. Some signs of bruxism are flattened tips, or cusps, of the teeth, tooth enamel that is worn down or away, causing extreme sensitivity, popping and clicking in the jaw and indentations on the tongue.

Other risks can include damage to the gum tissues and the spreading of bacteria from other parts of the body to the mouth and from the mouth to the nail bed or bloodstream.

Nail biting has been observed to affect around 30% of children and up to 45% of young adults. The habits fades significantly once people hit adulthood, affecting only about 5% of adults. Because it is an oral/para-functional habit, it has been associated with obsessive compulsive disorders and even grouped together with excessive nose picking and thumb sucking. This indicates that it is a self-soothing technique or “coping mechanism” for those who may have underlying psychological issues like anxiety, nervousness, or depression.

How to Stop Nail Biting

Nail biting is a difficult habit to break, but it can be done. Here are a few tips that can help:

  • Keep a nail file handy and file down any chips in your nails, instead of chewing on them.
  • Treat yourself to a professional manicure. If your nails look nice you will be less likely to bite them.
  • Use a bad tasting nail polish to discourage you from putting your nails in your mouth.
  • Talk to your Wheat Ridge dentist at Primary Dental about a mouth guard, particularly if you bite your nails unconsciously.