Nail Biting and Oral Health

Many of us have, at some point in our lives, given in to the bad habit of nail biting. Nail biting is a compulsive behaviour that is often associated with stress, in the medical profession referred to as ‘onychophagia’. Little is known about why we bite our nails or why it is so hard to kick the habit, but what we do know is that biting our nails can wreak serious havoc on our teeth.

People that bite their nails often do so on a daily basis. The spend hours a day grinding and chewing through their nails, and this behaviour can put a lot of stress on their teeth. Teeth can be chipped, cracked, or worn down by chewing on your nails which can result in sensitivity, misshapen teeth and perhaps even a broken tooth. This damage can be made even worse if you wear braces. Braces already put pressure on your teeth and when the pressure from nail biting is added to the pressure of braces, young children can run the risk of losing their teeth or the roots of their teeth being shortened. Severe nail biting that happens for years can also lead to a condition called Temporomandibular Joint Disorder. TMJ is associated with jaw pain, headaches and uncomfortable clicking and popping noises that come from the jaw.

Germs and bacteria are also a big problem when you have a habit of nail biting. There are a lot of bacteria that collect under our fingernails during the day – as many as 150 species of bacteria. When you chew your nails, these bacteria get transferred to your mouth, which can increase your risks of illness and infections as well as compromise your oral health. So, if you’re noticing bad breath and gum infections, your nail biting habit might be to blame.

While breaking a habit like nail biting can be difficult, it’s important to work at giving it up for good. There are a lot of different things that can be done to help you stop biting your nails. If you keep your nails neatly trimmed and the edges rounded you won’t be able to bite them and you can buy special types of nail polish that have a bitter taste to prevent you from putting your nails in your mouth. If you are still in the process of giving up nail biting, use an antibacterial mouthwash to reduce some of the bacteria in your mouth that might come from your fingernails. You can find antibacterial mouthwash in our best mouthwash options.

It may take time and a lot of hard work to give up nail biting, but your life will be so much better without it and your teeth will be a lot healthier, too. If you’re finding it especially difficult, try getting to the root of the problem. If nail biting is a habit formed from stress and anxiety, consider taking actions to find alternative ways of alleviating stress that are a lot healthier.