People biting their nails may look unattractive or even disgusting but it causes way more damage than that. Nail biting can cause health problems and can damage your teeth. It’s a pediatric dentist’s job to make the child aware of the negative effects of nail biting.

nail biting

What are the causes of nail-biting?

Nail biting can start from as early as 4 years of age. Almost 30% of kids and 50% adolescents do nail biting. It can be associated with stress and anxiety. Kids suffering from psychological disorders might start biting their nails.

Besides affecting oral health wellness nail biting can cause health issues and damage your nails as well. Your fingernails collect a lot of bacteria, fungus, yeast, and other germs underneath them and when you put those fingers in your mouth the germs transfer to your body.

Negative effects of nail biting on teeth

  • Poor dental occlusion

Pressure from nail biting can shift the position of teeth. Some teeth might shape oddly because of it

  • Broken and chipped teeth

Teeth can be damaged. Their enamel might chip off the tooth can break

  • Gum infection

Nail bites can cause gum disease and infection. Kids can suffer gingival trauma and gingivitis because of nail biting.

  • Grinding molars

Since nail-biting is often a sign of anxiety or nervousness, it makes sense that nail-biters are more likely to grind their molars while they sleep at night. Excessive grinding can cause your teeth to eventually fall out.

  • Bad breath

With nail-biting more bacteria enter your mouth leading to bad breath (halitosis)

  • Breaking braces

Kids who have braces can break the brackets or wire because of nail biting.

How to stop nail biting?

  • Avoid triggering kid’s anxiety and stress
  • Distract the child and involve him in some other activities when he starts biting his nails
  • Keep nails neatly trimmed
  • Use over-the-counter products available to avoid nail biting. There are some serums available that taste bitter. Apply them on the nails so the child stops biting
  • Behavior therapy might be needed in some cases



Does biting nails affect jaw?

While it may seem like a harmless activity, biting your nails can quickly lead to damaged teeth. In the most severe cases, consistent nail biting can cause TMJ and issues with opening and closing your jaw correctly.

Does nail biting damage teeth?

Erosion, chipping, and cracking: the grinding friction of teeth against nails can gradually wear the enamel away, or even cause teeth to chip or crack. Malocclusion and gaps: biting nails doesn’t just damage the teeth, it can also cause them to move, leading to malocclusions (problems with the bite) and gaps.

Is nail biting a mental disorder?

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, categorizes chronic nail biting as other specified obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), classified in the same group as compulsive lip biting, nose picking, and hair pulling (American Psychiatric Association, 2013).

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