Are You a Nail Biter?

Did you know that fingernail-biting not only ruins the appearance of your nails but can also damage your teeth? Besides being somewhat unsanitary, biting your nails isn’t great since:

  • When you bite you nails, your teeth are being forced to try to break down a hardened version of keratin which can cause teeth to wear down.
  • Some studies show that this habit can contribute to early-stage gum disease, called gingivitis.
  • The risk of clenching and grinding your teeth (bruxism) seems to be higher for those who bite their nails.
  • The stress on your teeth of fingernail-biting can lead to crooked teeth.

Some studies link compulsive nail-biting to being more than being just a nervous habit, with the action relating to irritation or boredom. Some individuals don’t even realize they’re doing it.

Your Nails and Nasty Germs

One of the only good things to come out of the pandemic is that many of us became more conscious when it comes to washing our hands after outside exposure. There’s no doubt that our fingers are unconscious germ collectors. A recent Harvard Health blog outlines how nail-biters are more vulnerable to germs since the habit can create ragged skin and fissures in which germs can pass through, making you more susceptible to illness. No matter how often you wash your hands, there’s a strong likelihood that bacteria may nonetheless have accumulated under the nail, and you can still pass harmful bacteria from your fingers to your mouth.

Tips for Stopping Nail Biting

From our dental perspective, a dental mouth guard is one way of preventing nail-biting. We can custom-design one for you. The mouthguard will also help your teeth if you suffer from bruxism (clenching and grinding your teeth). Other tips from the experts:

  • Try a manicure for “wallet” motivation (you won’t want to ruin a manicure!)
  • Use a stress ball to keep your hands busy
  • Chew sugar-free gum
  • Coat nails with special safe, bitter-tasting polish
  • Keep nails trimmed short

Nail biting isn’t simply unsightly. If the problem persists, ask your general practitioner for their opinion on strategies to help you cope with negative emotions that could be causing the habit and, at the same time, help protect your pearly whites.