Nail biting is habitual. Children and teens are the most common abusers with side effects that can be costly and time consuming to correct. Your family dentist can educate you and your children on what can happen if this habit continues over time.
Biting on fingernails does not create a smooth and even nail. Jagged and broken nails can have sharp edges that can cut into soft oral tissues. These cuts or abrasions can become infected from oral bacteria requiring intervention at times with antibiotics.
Putting hands in your mouth allow germs from whatever you have touched to enter your body. This can lead to illness, and in addition is unsanitary in general.
If you have ever bitten or chewed on your nails or a hangnail, you might have noticed the strange oral contortions you have assumed to achieve your objective. Over time, you can literally cause your teeth to shift or jaw to ache from these abnormal movements.
Chewing on nails can lead to another very serious habit … bruxism (grinding of teeth and clenching the jaw). It has been demonstrated that biting nails increases the likelihood of teeth grinding.
Teeth grinding can lead to a host of other problems … worn dental enamel, broken or chipped teeth, pain in the ear, neck, jaw, head, neck, or mouth.
What can be done to discourage these destructive habits?
Nail biting: While some adults engage in nail biting, it is mostly children and teens that bite their nails. It is very often done subconsciously while watching TV, reading, or often in school due to boredom. Placing something unpleasant tasting on the hands will serve as a reminder to remove the hands from the mouth; mentioning it when seen; or rewarding good behavior like breaking the habit might be a motivator.
Teeth grinding: This habit might cease after breaking the nail biting pattern, but since much of the teeth grinding is done subconsciously during periods of sleep, a mouth guard is advantageous in correcting this habit.
Maintaining healthy teeth and gums is rewarding in many ways … less time and money spent on needed dental repair; the ability to speak and chew correctly allows you to enjoy countless foods and time with friends; a great smile promotes self-confidence … but mostly a healthy mouth contributes to great overall health.