Nail biting may seem like a relatively harmless practice. About half of all children between 10 and 18 bite their nails at some point. The nervous habit is usually triggered by boredom, stress, or excitement. Most people stop by age 30. Nail biting has a wide range of harmful effects and can do significant damage to your health, your smile, and your quality of life. The potential cost in extra dental bills that are associated with nail biting is estimated to be as much as $4,000, making it a costly habit.
Nail Biting Affects Dental Health
Taking a close look at many of the common ramifications of nail biting provides proof enough that it is a surprisingly harmful practice. Many are dental effects, but overall health can also be seriously impacted at the same time. The following are among the many reasons nail biting should be avoided altogether, for the sake of dental health:
- Biting your nails wears away at the enamel on your teeth. It can cause the teeth to crack, chip, and break off.
- Your teeth can shift out of their proper position, as a result of nail biting.
- Nail biting puts a person at greater risk for bruxism or unintentional clenching and grinding of the teeth. Bruxism causes dental problems such as tooth sensitivity, tooth loss, and recessed gums. It can also cause headaches and facial pain.
- Gum tissue can become damaged, sore, or torn as a result of nail chewing. Sharp, jagged edges of the fingernails further spread bacteria to parts of the mouth. Harmful germs are also passed from the mouth to the bloodstream or nail bed.
- The manner in which our upper and lower teeth come together when the mouth is closed is dental occlusion. Biting your fingernails can interfere with proper dental occlusion.
Non-dental Problems Caused by Nail Biting
Our fingers harbor plenty of bacteria and germs, but our fingernails harbor almost twice as much. Pathogenic bacteria such as E. coli and Salmonella thrive in our fingernails. Anyone who understands that our hands collect germs constantly recognizes nail biting as a gross habit. The problem is worse than gross. Nail biting can cause stomach problems because of the harmful germs that go from the nails into the mouth and eventually to the stomach. More non-dental problems associated with nail biting follow:
- A skin infection called paronychia is commonly suffered by nail biters, and it occurs around fingernails.
- Nail biting is associated with higher levels of quality of life impairment, compared to those without the habit.
- Depending on the severity of the nail biting, people can become embarrassed and sensitive about being in society.
- Chronic nail biters frequently develop warts on their fingers, which can easily spread to the mouth and lips. The unsightly warts are caused by human papillomavirus or HPV.
Tips to Help Stop Biting Your Nails
Kicking habits can be difficult, and nail biting is no exception. The following are strategies that have proven effective in helping nail biters kick the habit:
- Keep your nails manicured or trimmed to a short length.
- Place a substance on your fingertips that is unpleasant, such as hot sauce or vinegar.
- Find a task that keeps your hands busy and occupied, such as knitting.
- Take notes in a journal whenever nail-biting is triggered. You may notice, for instance, that you tend to bite your nails when you are watching television or when you are bored. Avoid the triggers as much as you can.
- If an activity that triggers nail biting is something unavoidable, such as studying, take preventative measures. For instance, place band aids or tape around your fingertips when you are most vulnerable.
Gumucio Dental – for Emergency Dental Care & more
Nail biting is one of many reasons people need emergency dental care. Whatever your needs for oral care, contact Gumucio Dental today. We care about your dental health. Contact us today for help with your smile and for additional options for kicking the habit of nail biting.