Biting Nails: Why Your Family Dentist Wants You To Kick This Habit

Dentists share the negative effects of nail biting.

Biting Nails Damages Teeth

Nail biting is one of the most common bad habits among adults and it’s also one of the hardest to break. Not only does it put you at risk for countless germs and bacteria that take up residence under the cuticles and fingernails on a daily basis, but it also damages your teeth! So why do so many of us do it and what can we do to stop?

Research has shown that the nail-biting urge could be genetic, and that women are more likely to chew their nails than men. Nail biting is usually a response to anxiety or nerves. It takes active concentration to break the impulse, since biters so often don’t even notice they are doing the deed until someone points it out to them.

Nails are made of a hard protein called keratin. To put this in perspective, keratin is the same substance that animal hooves and horns are made of! It’s incredibly unyielding and when our teeth attempt to chew through it they can get chipped or cracked. Minor enamel fractures can also occur when your top and bottom teeth crash into each other with considerable force.

Like any compulsive habit, chewing your nails is hard to curb when the behavior is unchecked throughout adolescence and adulthood. If your child has started showing a tendency to bite their nails, take the time to prevent more damage from accumulating. Some popular products include bitter tasting topical ointments that can be applied to the fingertips. These will discourage kids and adults alike from putting their fingers in their mouths.

Nail biting can also pose a threat to orthodontic equipment like braces. Not only do you risk damaging the braces, you could get nail fragments stuck or embedded in the metalwork. And if you have a pre-existing condition like TMJ, nail biting can put stress on already sensitive jaw muscles. Biting fingernails can be compared to teeth grinding as it also focuses pressure on unusual muscles in the mouth. Not to mention human fingernails come into contact with so many bacteria everyday that putting them in your mouth is almost unthinkable!

Talk to you family dentist for more information about the risks of biting your nails and ways to kick the habit for good! If you live in the Reynoldsburg or Columbus areas, call today for an appointment and consultation with Dr. Loper. We look forward to hearing from you!

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