7 November 2014
Is Nail Biting Bad for You?
The short answer is yes. At some point in your life you have probably heard someone say “Stop biting your nails. It is not good for you.” Maybe it was said to you or someone you know. Did it make you wonder why it wasn’t good for you to bite your nails?
Before we talk about how it is bad for your teeth, let’s just talk about germs. Your hands hold a lot of germs. You touch things all day long and since biting your nails is often a habit you do without realizing you are doing it, you put those dirty hands in your mouth. When you think about it that way, it can turn your stomach a bit! You have the potential to pick up germs and viruses that can make you sick or expose your mouth and body to unnecessary risk.
It is also actually bad for your teeth. Nail biting is often done with your front teeth which are not intended for chewing and grinding hard materials, your back teeth are. Constant chewing on your nails can wear down your tooth enamel and even make your teeth uneven.
The Academy of General Dentistry also says that biting nails often leads to jaw clenching and grinding. This can lead to TMJ down the road which is condition where the jaw pops, can even lock and cause a considerable amount of pain. The Academy of General Dentistry has also done research that shows nail biters spend up to $4000 more on dental care in their lifetime than non-nail biters.
We know stopping the habit can be hard since it is often a reaction to stress or anxiety that the nail biter often doesn’t realize they are doing. Of course you can try to break the habit by painting clear polish on your nails or using a special product for the cessation of nail biting. Both products have an unpleasant taste which will hopefully make the nail biter want to stop. Another option is to replace it with something else that is not harmful to you. You could twirl a pencil, string or turn a coin in your hand to replace the nervous habit.
If you have tried these things and they haven’t worked or you know you or your child is a nail biter and a teeth grinder talk with Dr. Reagin. Mouth guards can be made that reduce the grinding at night and worn at other times of the day can prevent you from biting your nails.
Whichever path you choose it is just important to start trying to break the habit and improve your dental and overall health.