Did you know that biting your nails could lead to dental problems? Children and teenagers tend to bite their nails as a response to feeling nervous or overwhelmed. Sometimes, this habit can carry over into adulthood. While most people may think that biting one’s nails only negatively affects the appearance of a person’s hands, there is oral health problems associated with nail biting. In some cases, nail biting can lead to damage, which might lead to the need for professional treatment from our dentist.
Nail Biting and Bruxism
Biting your nails can lead to bruxism, the act of teeth making unnecessary contact due to grinding and clenching. Bruxism is a habit that develops, like nail biting, as a response to stress and anxiety. In many cases, our dentist sees patients whose anxious habits lead to permanent tooth damage. This is because positioning the teeth to bite the thin edges of nails strains the TMJ and makes teeth contact in awkward, unnatural positions. When teeth scrape against each other unnecessarily, it can wear down tooth enamel and expose the more sensitive structures of teeth to oral bacteria and force that can chip or crack tooth structure.
In many instances, patients who bite their nails and/or brux their teeth require restorations such as fillings and dental crowns. These restorations can protect the softer structures of teeth while also repairing damage done to the shape and size of a tooth.
Nail Biting and Bacteria
If we think of all the things our hands touch in a day’s time – from doorknobs to computer keyboards – it is easy to see how our hands and nails become exposed to bacteria. Germs quickly accumulate underneath our fingernails. The bacteria on our hands can be transferred to our mouth when we bite down on our nails. Moreover, the jagged and sharp edges of our nails can cut into soft oral tissue including the gums and linings of the cheeks. Cuts and scrapes on soft tissue paired with the transfer of bacteria can lead to oral infections that require treatment.
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