Do you bite your nails and wish you could stop? You’re not alone; estimates suggest that 20 to 30 percent of the population have a nail-biting habit.
Many people associate nail-biting with anxiety, but other motivating factors include boredom, frustration, intense concentration, and even hunger. You may worry about the habit because it’s unappealing and painful, but numerous studies reveal a connection between nail biting and increased dental oral and general health conditions.
Increased Exposure to Bacteria
Even if you wash your hands thoroughly, your fingernails still harbor all sorts of germs that spread to your teeth, tongue, and gums. This isn’t just gross; it can be downright deadly. One study shows that a group of bacteria called Enterobacteriaceae that includes E. coli and salmonella thrive beneath your fingernails. As you bite your nails, you ingest the bacteria which can lead to digestion problems and abdominal pain.
Damage to Your Gums
Ragged edges left by nail-biting can scratch the gums, leaving an open wound that's exposed to bacteria and puts you at risk for gum disease.
Teeth Grinding and TMJ
Nail biters tend to grind their teeth, a destructive habit that can lead to bruxism that wears teeth and can also lead to TMJ disorders.
Tips for Curbing the Habit
As you can see, there are plenty of good reasons to try to curb your nail-biting habit. Some suggestions are:
- Wear a mouthguard whenever possible
- Keep nails trimmed as short as possible
- Try a bitter-tasting polish formulated to eliminate the habit
- Use relaxation techniques like yoga or meditation to minimize stress
Please Call Your Fairfax Dentist to Learn More
If you are a chronic nail biter, please call Dr. Cerina Fairfax to arrange an appointment. She will examine your mouth for signs of damage from nail biting and recommend ways for you to manage the habit and protect your oral and general health.