Why biting your nails is bad for your teeth

Closeup of woman biting her nails
Biting your nails is seemingly a minor bad habit, but it can cause dental issues if left unchecked.

Nail biting is an incredibly common habit, so if you have a hard time kicking it, you’re in good company! Although children and teenagers hold the highest percentages, almost one-third of adults are chronic nail-biters. Whether due to stress or just plain boredom, once you start the habit, it is extremely difficult to stop. When someone bites their nails, most of the negative attention goes to the state of the chewed-on fingernails and cuticles, but surprisingly, the worst effects are related to oral health! The consequences of indulging in this habit can be so severe that quitting should be top-priority if you want to save the health of your teeth and gums. Here are the most common reasons why it’s imperative that you keep your nails out of your mouth:

Tooth decay

It is no surprise that applying consistent pressure to your enamel over the course of many years will result in chips and cracks, and eventually cavities. Biting down on your nails will wear down the enamel and as it weakens, decay will set in. People with braces should be particularly on guard against a nail-biting habit, as the braces are already applying pressure on the teeth. Added pressure from biting can not only result in weakened enamel, but root resorption (where the roots are shortened).

Gum disease

A whole host of bacteria live on your fingernails and the tips of your fingers. Bringing that bacteria into contact with your gums will result in inflammation. Nail-biters are at major risk for infection of the gums as there is no way to avoid the transfer of bacteria to the already-worn down gum tissue.

Bruxism

If you bite your nails, you are much more likely to start grinding your teeth as well. Bruxism can cause very serious and far-reaching consequences, from the obvious tooth decay (and possible tooth loss) to headaches, TMJ issues, and gum recession.

Increased risk of sickness

Imagine that every germ you touch in a day goes directly into your bloodstream. This is what happens when you are constantly putting your fingers into your mouth and not only allowing the bacteria to attack your weakened enamel and gum tissue, but your entire immune system as well. There is no limit to the sicknesses that could come your way if you do not make a serious effort to stop biting your nails.

So what are some your options if you want to kick the habit but just don’t know where to start? Fortunately, there are ways that can make it easier for you, such as the following:

  • Maintain trimmed nails. It is more tempting to chew on nails that have jagged edges that can bitten off.
  • Experiment with various stress-reducing activities. See what works for you! Often times, nail biting is just a way to relieve stress and can be replaced by something that is healthy instead of harmful.
  • Ask others to help you quit. If it’s unconscious habit, chances are high that you don’t even realize when you’re doing it. Asking a friend to point it out will definitely help you quit.
  • Use bitter nail polish. If you paint your nails, opt for polish that is specifically made to deter people from chewing on the nail. The unpleasant taste will definitely make you think again before biting down!

There’s no need to feel hopeless about kicking a nail-biting habit when there’s so many resources to help you out along the way. Just becoming aware of the serious consequences that accompany this seemingly-harmless habit should give you enough motivation to stop chewing on your nails. If you find that you just can’t do it on your own, make an appointment with us today! We can examine your teeth and gums to see if any damage has already been done and give you the support you need as you kick the habit for good!