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Nail Biting and Your Oral Health

by | Sep 13, 2018 | oral hygiene

Nail biting is a common habit that may seem harmless at times, especially compared to more harmful habits such as smoking and drinking. However, this doesn’t mean that nail biting is not detrimental to your health. In fact, it’s probably unhealthier than most people think. While damage to the nails is a given, biting nails can actually cause problems with your teeth, gums and oral health as a whole. Below are some risks of nail biting.

Potential Damage to Teeth and Braces

According to the Academy of General Dentistry, nail biting can lead to tooth damage due to the large amount of pressure that you put on your teeth when you try to bite. Types of damage that you may be more at risk for include chipping, cracking and excess wear on your tooth enamel. As for those going through orthodontic treatment with any kind of braces, the pressure on your teeth from biting your nail combines with the pressure being applied by the braces can lead to a higher risk of your teeth roots buckling and shortening.

Bacteria Exposed to Your Gums

Throughout the day, your hands come in contact with a countless number of things. Even if you are good about washing your hand regularly, there is usually some bacteria that gets stuck underneath your fingernails. As you bit your nails, you are putting this bacteria into your mouth, exposing those germs to your tongue, gums and teeth. Over time this bacteria can build up and lead to painful inflammation and even infection. Beyond your mouth, if you end up ingesting that bacteria, you will be at a higher risk of experience digestive problems.

Gateway to Teeth Grinding

There have been some cases where nail biting has been tied to an increased likelihood of developing a tooth-grinding habit, which carries its own set of oral health problems. Those who have a tooth-grinding habit tend to experience gum recession, heightened tooth sensitivity, jaw pain, and even tooth loss in serious cases.

What You Can Do

While it may be difficult, the best way to avoid these oral health risks is by avoiding biting your nails. A few things you can do to force yourself out of the habit are:

  • Getting a mouthguard to prevent biting or grinding
  • Anti-nail-biting products that create a bad taste if you try to bite
  • Trying to occupy your hands and mouth with something else (ex. chewing gum)