You can often identify a nail biter by just glancing at their nails. Shredded cuticles and torn nails are difficult to hide. Nevertheless, the habit is quite popular—especially among kids and teens. In addition, women are more likely to bite their nails than men.
People often bite their nails when they experience stress. Not only is the habit detrimental to your manicure, but it is also damaging to your oral health. Here are a few reasons that you should say “no” to nail biting:
Chipped and Cracked teeth
Because your fingernails are relatively hard, biting on them can place a large amount of pressure on your teeth. Your tooth material can weaken under the bite force associated with a nail-biting session, resulting in a cracked or chipped tooth. Although many cracks and chips can be repaired through cosmetic restorative applications, such as dental crowns, or hidden by dental veneers, some cracks and chips can be particularly serious. A tooth that incurs a crack that runs through the root of the tooth and divides it into multiple parts cannot be repaired. Your dentist will have to extract it. Although nail biting rarely causes such serious damage to a tooth, a small fracture from the habit can worsen as the compromised tooth is exposed to additional stresses, such as teeth grinding.
Gaps and Migration
Some people actually insert their nails into the spaces between their teeth when they nail-bite. This repeated pressure can force the teeth apart. As a result, they can end up with a gap between the two teeth that they regularly separate with their nails.
In addition, your teeth can be forced out of alignment through the nail biting. Gaps and dental migrations can be corrected through orthodontic measures, but they may be avoided if the nail-biting never occurs or stops before the damage ensues.
Some people bite their nails even while wearing braces. The braces are already exerting enough force to reposition the teeth. The addition of nail biting can cause problems with the roots of your teeth.
People who bite their nails while wearing braces can suffer from root resorption. This occurs when your dental roots are dissolved and absorbed by the jawbone that holds them in place. As a result, nail biting can actually be associated with tooth loss.
Problems with TMJ
Due to your nail-biting habit, you may experience pain in your temporomandibular joint (TMJ). If you already suffer from TMJ issues, biting your nails can exacerbate the problems. In fact, if your nail biting is forceful enough, it can cause the discs of your temporomandibular joints to become displaced. Symptoms of a TMJ disorder may include pain while chewing, clicking noises as you move your jaw about, ear discomfort and difficulties whey you attempt to completely close or open your mouth.
If you force your nails between your teeth and along your gum line as you bite them, you may be pushing bacteria up into your gums. As a result, you can exacerbate gum inflammation. In addition to forcing microbes that are already present in your mouth into your gums, nail biting can even introduce additional bacteria into your mouth. With all of the surfaces that your hands touch throughout the day, just the thought of introducing the germs from these surfaces into your mouth may be enough to convince you to abandon the habit.
Stopping the Habit
If you would like to bring your nail-biting habit to a halt, here are a few tips to help you along:
- Clip your nails as short as comfortably possible. Short nails are much more difficult to bite.
- Coat your nails with distasteful substances, such as bitter tasting nail products. Over-the-counter solutions that discourage nail biting can often be applied in the same manner as regular nail polish.
- Polish your nails. You are less likely to nibble on nails that are coated with nail polish than those that are left in their natural state.
- Have a professional manicure. After spending your hard-earned money on a manicure, you may be less likely to destroy it with a nail-biting session.
- Use other stress reduction techniques, such as deep breathing. Many people bite their nails whenever they incur stress. By reducing the stress or finding alternative coping mechanisms, you may be able to leave nail biting behind permanently.