Whether you bite your nails due to stress, excitement, or boredom, nail-biting is a common habit, especially among children. Though it may seem like teeth are stronger than fingernails, this habit can impact the appearance of your nails and severely damage your teeth and gums. The Orlando dentists at Thornton Park Dental Arts break down how nail-biting affects your teeth and how to kick your habit.
Biting your nails puts your teeth under unnecessary stress causing them to shift slightly out of place. Shifting teeth weakens the roots that anchor teeth to the gums. This can be detrimental to orthodontic procedures that require strong roots. Braces put teeth under constant gentle pressure to move them into the appropriate position. Biting your nails while having braces can increase the risk of root resorption, which occurs when the roots of the teeth get dissolved by the bone around them.
One of the most severe issues caused by nail-biting is bruxism, or teeth grinding. As you bite your nails, you may be clenching your teeth together unknowingly, which can create a trained response that occurs when you are experiencing stressful or intense emotions. Bruxism can cause jaw pain, tense muscles, chronic headaches, sensitive teeth, and even temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder.
Biting your nails can cause tooth enamel erosion, leading to the exposure of dentin — the hard layer underneath enamel that has a yellowish color. As enamel erodes, you may feel pain when consuming something hot or cold, called tooth sensitivity or dentin hypersensitivity. Once it erodes, it cannot be repaired because it has no living cells.
While teeth are resilient, nail-biting can cause teeth to move and lead to malocclusion, meaning your teeth won’t be aligned when you close your mouth. The persistent grinding of your teeth causes this movement as you bite your nails. Malocclusions can also create gaps between your teeth, particularly the two front teeth. If your teeth have become unevenly spaced, porcelain veneers can help bridge the gap. Contact our office to learn more about what options are available.
Keratin is a protein that forms your hair and skin cells. Nails are a hardened form of this protein. When you bite down on your nail, you force your teeth to break through this hard substance. This force can accelerate wear on your teeth, causing them to crack or chip. Minor chips or gaps in teeth can be fixed using dental bonding, so don’t let a chipped tooth stop you from smiling. Get in touch with us for a beautiful, confident smile!
Hands are the perfect vehicle for bacteria to get into your body. When you put your nails into your mouth, the bacteria under your nails increases the risk of oral infection. Biting your nails can leave them with jagged or rough edges that can lead to an open wound on the surface of your gums which could damage them.
While nail-biting doesn’t typically cause permanent damage, it can have some negative repercussions on the health of your nails and teeth. Breaking out of this habit doesn’t happen overnight, but it is possible to break the habit with a little patience and effort.
Before attempting to curb your nail-biting habit, we recommend finding out what triggers you to bite your nails. Some common triggers include brooding on a problem, ignoring your anger or feelings about an issue, or chewing on the nails as a mindless habit. We recommend keeping a journal or making a mental note of what is happening when you bite your nails. This will help you to stop this habit and to manage those triggers.
When it comes to breaking a nasty habit, don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Friends or family close to you can politely call you out if they notice any nail-biting or encourage you when they see you are doing well. Teaming up with a friend who is also trying to stop biting their nails is an excellent way to hold each other accountable.
One way to stop biting your nails is to learn what exactly awaits you underneath your fingernails. Many common germs and bacteria, such as staph bacteria and different species of strep, can be found both on your body and under your nails. Fungus can also make its home under your fingernails, which can cause the nail to turn yellow, brown, or black.
Long nails are a powerful temptation for those who are chronic nail biters. To best resist this temptation, we recommend keeping your nails trimmed. You can also set a particular day and time to trim your nails, so you can take care of any hangnails or ragged edges without the temptation to bite them. If you decide to get a professional manicure, make sure that both the salon and the manicurist use sterile tools to protect against fungal infections.
Because nail-biting is such a common habit, certain nail polishes are available to help stop nail-biting. This polish leaves behind the bitter taste that will remind you to stop every time you start to bite your nails. These can be found wherever regular nail polish is sold, or you can talk to a professional manicurist or a dermatologist for more ideas along this line.
Instead of quitting biting your nails cold turkey, you can start by choosing one finger that you won’t put in your mouth. You can continue this process until you are down to biting the nail of a single finger. Slowly you can work on no longer chewing on that nail until you break the habit. Even if you can’t completely break the habit, you can lessen the damage done to both your nail and your teeth.