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Is Nail-biting at Any Age Harmful to the Teeth?

Biting your nails not only makes your hands unsightly, but can also cause harm to your fingers and cuticles, as well as your teeth. Nail-biting is a habit often developed in childhood, with an estimated 60 percent of children and 45 percent of teenagers who bite their nails. Although nail-biting is less common in adults, as much as 30 percent still bite their nails. Many times, people bite their nails as a nervous response to stress, boredom, or frustration. Nail-biting causes damage similar to that which can occur from eating or chewing on hard foods or objects, such as ice or the cap of a pen.

Long-term nail-biting can lead to broken dental restorations, as well as temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders, which can lead to pain in the muscles and ligaments you use to chew, as well as pain in this joint due to the excessive stress of nail-biting.

How to Quit Biting Your Nails

As with any bad habit or coping mechanism, it can be difficult to stop biting your nails. Quitting has to be a conscious, resolute decision, but there are solutions, such as aversion therapy used for smoking cessation. Personal strategies to help you stop nail-biting include:

  • Coating your nails with a distasteful polish specially designed for those who want to quit biting their nails.
  • Keep your nails trimmed short, so there is less to bite or chew.
  • Engage in stress-relieving activities, such as meditation, yoga, and deep breathing techniques.
  • Get regular manicures to keep nails looking well-groomed, motivating you to keep them that way. In addition, the monetary investment may help you think twice about biting your nails.
  • Try aversion therapy techniques, such as keeping a rubber band around your wrist and snapping it when you have an urge to bite your nails.
  • Look at photos online of bacteria living under fingernails. This alone may deter you from nail-biting.

Regardless of your age, nail-biting can cause damage to your fingers, cuticles, teeth, and gums. In addition, high levels of stress and anxiety can lead to more serious health conditions. The germs underneath your nails can make you sick, and nail-biting increases your risk of infection in your fingers, as well as in your mouth. Although it can be difficult to quit this nervous habit, stopping can do wonders for both your oral and overall health. For more information about nail-biting and why you should quit, contact River Valley Smiles at 479-646-0706.

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