Chewing on the tips of your fingernails may be a comforting habit, but is one that can cause more damage than you may realize. Similar to chewing pencils or chomping down on ice, nail biting, also known as onychophagia, can put you at risk of chipping, breaking or fracturing your teeth. It can also cause damage to your gums. Keep reading to find out what makes people want to bite their nails, how it can affect your oral health and what you can do to break this harmful habit.
What Encourages Nail Biting?
Typically, nail biting is a habit that many do without thinking about it. While no one knows exactly what makes people feel the urge to bite their nails, it can be associated with mental health conditions like ADHD and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Studies also show that for many, it is a learned behavior. Children whose parents bite their nails were likely to mimic this habit. It is also a way that many cope with anxiety, nervousness or depression. Even boredom, hunger and insecurity can encourage people to nibble on their nails.
Can It Damage Your Oral Health?
Your hands touch multiple germ-ridden surfaces throughout the day, every day. If you subconsciously slip your fingernail into your mouth, any and all of the bacteria sitting beneath them can get into your mouth and cause infection or other oral issues. Nail biting can also damage your teeth by causing them to shift, chip or possibly crack. And while enamel is the hardest material in your body, grinding your teeth against your nails can cause it to erode.
What Can You Do to Stop Biting Your Nails?
Nail biting can be a difficult habit to break. But making the decision to stop will help reduce your risk of damage to your teeth and your nails. Here are a few ways to help you stop:
- Keep your nails short
- Chew gum
- Coat your nails with a bitter nail polish
- Avoid triggers
Any steps you decide to take to break the habit of biting your nails will benefit both your oral and nail health. If you find that you are still nibbling on your fingernails after trying these suggestions, your dentist will be able to provide additional ways to help you stop.
About the Author
At Medina Family Dentistry, Dr. Allan Milewski and his team are committed to providing exceptional dental care for all ages by combining state-of-the-art treatment with a personalized approach. Dr. Milewski is committed to continuing education. As a member of the Spear Study Club, he stays informed of the latest in techniques and treatment options in dentistry. His other professional affiliations include the American Dental Association, the Ohio Dental Association, the Academy of General Dentistry and the Medina County Dental Society. If you’ve suffered oral damage from nail biting or you’d like help to stop, visit the website or contact the office at (330) 725-2242 to schedule an appointment today.