When we speak about “bad habits” one that often comes to mind is nail-biting.
It is a habit shared between a quarter and a third of children and nearly half of teenagers. Some children grow out of the habit, but some may carry it through into adulthood. If you or your child is a nail biter, there are many complications that can arise from this, particularly when it comes to their teeth.
Effects on teeth
1: Biting your nails increases the risk of damage to your teeth from cracking or chipping. The grinding friction of teeth against nails can gradually wear the enamel away, or simply cause teeth to chip or crack.
2: Biting nails does not only damage the teeth, but it can also cause them to move, leading to malocclusions (problems with the bite) and gaps.
3: This habit can also lead to a condition called bruxism. With a habit such as nail-biting, the body can become accustomed to using this outlet as a way to deal with stress and anxiety. This can increase a person’s risk of developing a chronic teeth-grinding habit, which comes with even more oral health problems, along with headaches and soreness.
4: Root reabsorption is also a risk that comes along with a nail-biting habit. Root resorption is possibly the scariest thing nail biting can do to teeth, it may cause the jaw bone to reabsorb the roots, weakening them and leaving them more vulnerable to falling out. This is an even greater risk for people with wire braces.
Effects on gums
Not only can nail-biting have a negative impact on teeth, but also the gums.
When biting your nails, your nails can come into contact with your gums and scrape or break the surface. This not only exposes your gums to bacteria from your nails, but it also makes your body work harder to heal the gum tissue. The broken areas of your gums being exposed to the dirt and bacteria from fingernails can lead to gum disease such as gingivitis.
Nail biters may also experience sore, torn or damaged gum tissue caused by jagged, sharp fingernail edges and the spread of bacteria from other body parts to the mouth and from the mouth to the nail bed or bloodstream.
Breaking the habit
If nail biting is a habit by you or one of the members of your household, it is time to kick the habit! These tips may help:
- Trim nails regularly so there is nothing to bite.
- Paint nails with bitter-tasting polish so biting become associated with an unpleasant taste.
- Swap the nail-biting habit with a more harmless way to fidget such as a stress ball.
- Identify 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!