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The Surprising Ways Nail Biting Damages Your Oral Health

Dentist Blog

If you're a habitual nail biter, you're probably aware that it can potentially make your teeth crooked. However, that's not where the damage to your mouth ends: here are three other kinds of damage that chewing on your nails can produce.

Damaged Enamel

Teeth and enamel are strong, but aren't intended to repeatedly chew through hard substances like your nails each and every day. Over time, biting your nails can result in cracks or breaks in the enamel on your teeth, which is the strong barrier that protects the pulp and root of your teeth from bacteria, infection and trauma.

Without enamel, your teeth will be more susceptible to damage from plaque, acidic foods and bacteria, increasing your risk of cavities. You may also notice that your teeth look less white or appear semi-transparent at the biting surfaces because of the thinned or missing enamel.


The risk of infection isn't increased just by damage to your enamel: the simple act of putting your fingers in your mouth introduces bacteria and germs that can infect your gums. Even without other risk factors for gum disease, a regular influx of bacteria from your fingers can potentially cause gum disease, especially if you're not flossing and brushing enough.

Aside from the health of your gums and teeth, this behavior can increase your risk of vomiting, diarrhea and stomach viruses. E-coli, staphylococcus and hepatitis are germs that can be potentially found under fingernails. Nail biters typically have cleaner fingernails than those who don't bite, but not for a good reason: the bacteria is going into their mouths and intestines instead of staying under their nails!

Jaw Pain & Disorders

Biting your nails puts extreme stress on your jaw hinges, which can worsen temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ). In extreme scenarios, it can even force your jaw joint out of alignment which typically causes the jaw to lock, unable to close or open fully.

Even if you don't have TMJ/TMD, biting your nails can cause or worsen bruxism, or jaw clenching. If your dentist has ever told you that your teeth are worn down due to grinding your teeth, you might be able to alleviate the problem by cutting this bad habit.

Quitting & Dental Care

It's not easy to stop biting your nails, but there are a few methods that might be helpful:

  • Purchase A Bitter Anti-Bite Substance - These substances are usually sold with nail polish-like brushes, and you use them just like nail polish. They taste bitter or spicy and make you less likely to bite.
  • Wear Gloves Or Tape Your Fingers - This isn't a permanent solution, but forcing yourself to stop the bad habit for a long period of time may make it easier to quit.
  • Be Mindful - Whenever you feel the urge to bite your nails, write down what you're doing and feeling. You might be biting when you're anxious, worried or simply bored. Recognizing the reasons for why you're doing it can help you to consciously recognize those feelings and stop before it starts.

In the meanwhile, visit a dentist, such as Malwin & Malwin Family Dentistry: your teeth have been through unusual wear and tear and may need more checkups and cleanings than if you weren't a nail biter. Your dentist will be able to identify gum disease and damaged enamel and help you to improve your dental health while you try to quit biting your nails.


11 December 2014