How Nail Biting Affects Your Teeth


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Nail biting is a habit that can begin in childhood and continue through your adult life. While many children grow out of nail biting, others are never able to cease this practice. People have many reasons for chewing on their nails—whether it’s out of anxiety or just a way to trim them, this bad habit is more harmful than you think. Here’s how nail biting affects your smile!

Damage from Cracking

Biting your nails increases the risk of damage to your teeth from cracking or chipping. Our nails are made of a substance called keratin, which is a tough protein our body uses to also make our hair. When your nails grow, new cells push the old cells out, and these old cells can harden. This hard material isn’t meant to be chewed on, making the chances of damaging your teeth that much greater.

Wearing Down the Teeth

Our teeth are meant to chew food, not tough substances like fingernails! Since your teeth need to last you a lifetime, any excessive wearing of your teeth can cause problems. By biting your nails, you wear down your teeth faster, increasing the chances of enamel erosion, a misaligned bite, and other dental problems.

Increased Risk of Bruxism

With a habit like nail biting, the body gets used to using this outlet as a way to deal with stress and anxiety. Even if you stop biting your nails, you may grind your teeth instead. Teeth grinding is often an unconscious practice that happens during sleep or in times of stress. This puts enormous pressure on the teeth which can lead to headaches, jaw pain, enamel erosion, and eventually tooth loss.

Damaged Gum Tissue

When you chew on your nails, this often creates jagged, uneven edges. As you continue to put your fingers in your mouth and bite your nails, you risk gum damage. This is because your nails can come into contact with your gums and scrape or break the surface. This not only exposes your gums to bacteria from your nails, but it also makes your body work harder to heal the gum tissue.

Spreading Bacteria

Fingernails can carry significant amounts of bacteria, depending on how clean your hands are and how long your nails are. Whatever you touch or eat can remain on your fingers. If you’re not washing your hands often—this is particularly true for children— bacteria can accumulate. These bacteria often aren’t harmful, unless introduced in the right situation. This is exactly what can happen when you put your fingers in your mouth to chew on your nails. Bacteria are then introduced into the oral cavity that wouldn’t normally be, which could harm your smile by making your mouth more acidic or even your body by contracting infections like pinworm.

Nail biting isn’t worth the risk of damaging your teeth, and it’s a habit that you can kick. By looking into alternative stress coping mechanisms in addition to keeping your nails neatly trimmed, you can stop biting your nails and protect your smile for good!

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How Nail Biting Affects Your Teeth
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By looking into alternative stress coping mechanisms in addition to keeping your nails neatly trimmed, you can stop biting your nails and protect your smile for good!

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Dr. Thomas Bucker
Dr. Thomas Bucker

Dr. Thomas Bucker is a member of the dental team at Carpathian Dental Associates in Johnson City, New York. Dr. Bucker has a focus in treating Obstructive Sleep Apnea and has advanced training in Oral Appliance Therapy. He is a member of the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine.

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