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Many people bite nails when they are anxious or stressed. However, knowing its harmful effects will only increase their anxiety and stress. About 30% of children, 45% of teenagers and 25% of young adults have the habit of biting their nails. Nail biting is one habit which sets in due to various reasons and just continues due to nervousness, boredom, frustration or stress. People tend to unconsciously bite their nails and over a period of time, it becomes very difficult to get rid of the habit.
A good understanding of the harmful effects of biting nails, to the overall health and oral health, can be a good starting point to quitting the habit. The harmful effects of nail biting on oral health effects are listed below:
- Source of infection: The fingernails are more difficult to clean than the fingers and the rest of the hand. Therefore, there is a good amount of bacteria residing there, which get into your mouth and your stomach when you bite nails. The next time you wonder why your stomach is upset, take a good look at your nails.
- Tooth chipping: The enamel is thinnest at the tip of the front teeth. When biting nails, there is a constant pressure on this thin enamel which can chip after a certain point of time. Another way that a tooth chips is because of the pressure when biting a nail. The tooth can hit hard on the opposing tooth, leading to a fracture or chipping.
- Altered shape of the teeth: In many cases, the front teeth appear worn off or are squared. This is because there is always pressure on the teeth from the nails.
- Induce gap between the front teeth: When nail biting continues for years at a stretch, the two front teeth can develop a gap between them.
- Tooth sensitivity: With the enamel wearing off, the dentin is exposed and this can cause tooth sensitivity in many people.
- Joint problems: The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) near the ears helps in opening and closing the mouth. Constant pressure on the joint due to nail biting leads to inflammation of the joint which can cause ear ache, headaches, improper closing of the jaw and clicking sounds.
- Delay treatment with braces: A person with braces with a nail biting habit will have very bad consequences. There is pressure from both the braces and the biting. This could also lead to the failure to correct the misaligned teeth.
How to manage this habit?
- Identify the root cause of the habit
- Identify alternate ways to manage stress (exercise, yoga, hobby, etc.)
- A nail polish that has a bitter or offensive taste or smell
- Well manicured and painted nails, which you won’t feel like biting
- Get family and friends to remind or chide you, whichever works. If you wish to discuss about any specific problem, you can consult a Dentist.