Nix Nail-Biting to Prevent Dental Problems

Nail-biting is a compulsive habit that can wreak havoc on your teeth. Whether triggered by emotional stress, anxiousness, boredom, or something else entirely, there are ways to nip your nail-biting habit once and for all.

If you sometimes find yourself nibbling on your nails when you’re nervous, you are not alone. About half of all children and teens bite their nails, and many continue the habit into adulthood. While nail-biting may seem harmless, it could actually lead to much more serious health issues later in life.

Nail-biting can cause noticeable changes in a person’s smile. The stress is places on the front teeth can cause them to become cracked chipped or worn down. For individuals with braces, it increases the risk for root resorption (a shortening of the roots) or tooth loss, since braces already put a significant amount of pressure on the teeth.

There are several long-term implications to nail-biting as well. Studies have shown that patients who chew on their fingernails often go on to develop bruxism — subconscious grinding and clenching of the teeth that can cause jaw pain, gum recession, and tooth loss.

So, what can be done to bust this bad habit? If your nail-biting is a response to stress, the first thing you should do is identify your triggers. Understanding what events and feelings cause nail-biting can help you find healthier ways to cope. Many people find yoga, exercise, fidget toys, and coloring therapeutic — just be sure not to replace one bad habit with another

Additionally, try a manicure that makes it harder to turn to nail-biting. Both long nails and broken nails are tempting to bite, so keep them trimmed and filed smooth. Take it one step further by applying a specially formulated nail-biting deterrent. These bitter-tasting polishes will make you think twice about chewing.

Always remember that no bad habit is broken overnight. Set small goals for yourself to gradually quit. Start by choosing one hand or one nail to stop biting, and once you’ve kept it up for a few days, add another to the “no-bite” zone. With a little time and persistent effort, you can make nail-biting a thing of the past.

Subscribe Now

Subscribe to UK Dentistry's e-newsletter here to see similar news each month.

Make a Gift Your gifts help support the academic, research and patient care missions of the UK College of Dentistry. Make a gift now.