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Nail-biting is a common habit that affects most children and teens. It often arises as a type of control, a way to alleviate stress or improve concentration. It is a very normal habit, but, unfortunately, it has some not-so-good consequences, especially in regard to one’s oral health.

Poor Dental Occlusion

Occlusion is the manner in which a person’s teeth meet when they bite down, where the lower jaw connects with the upper jaw. The constant biting of one’s nails creates an uneven pressure that, over a long period of time and repetitive biting, can actually shift the teeth out of position. This is especially true when nail-biting is a childhood habit as teeth are still forming. The teeth may also become oddly shaped over time, and the correction of that will require braces or a retainer — which are annoying and can get expensive. So better to institute the ounce of prevention worth a pound of cure methodology by nixing the habit early.

Gum Disease and Infection

Part of the goal or impact of nail-biting is to trim the nails. Unfortunately, fingernails are rarely completely clean of bacteria, and as such, they can commonly cause infections in one’s teeth and gums. Bits of the nails can also get stuck in between one’s teeth and embedded in the gums. These situations lead to gum issues like gingivitis and gingival trauma.

Broken or Chipped Teeth

Nail-biting as an adult with strong teeth generally won’t cause broken or chipped teeth, but things are different in children and teenagers. Children have new emerging teeth that are simply not as strong as adult teeth. This is especially true if your child also has a sweet tooth as sugar weakens one’s tooth enamel. The more a child or teenager gnashes and tears their teeth, the more they risk chipping or otherwise fracturing their front teeth.

Grinding of Molars

Children who bite their nails when they are anxious or nervous are more likely to have other types of anxious physical tics, such as grinding their teeth at night. Grinding teeth, or grinding molars, is an unfortunately common nervous tic and one that can be incredibly harmful to teeth. Teeth grinding causes long-term damage to one’s enamel, wearing down the top of the teeth. Breaking a child’s habit of grinding their teeth at night is incredibly hard. But the good news is that if you can resolve the root issue of their nervous nail-biting, then the molar grinding while they sleep may resolve itself.

Breaking Braces

This one is especially frustrating — both for the children wearing the braces and the adults who have to organize the appointments and pay for those braces. But unfortunately, yes, the more your child bites their nails, the more they risk those nails getting caught within the wires and other aspects of the braces. Additionally, the act of biting nails in and of itself can lead to bending the brackets, wiring, and other parts of the braces. This can lead to your child or teenager needing a premature replacement or fixing.

Bad Breath

Remember, fingernails, especially child fingernails, are rarely immaculate. All of that dirt and other grime that is caught underneath them enters their mouth every time they bite their nails. Then they stay in the mouth. These germs lead to bacteria growth in and around the teeth, and that bacteria causes bad breath.

Contact Triangle Dentistry

Unfortunately, knowing how bad biting one’s nails are doesn’t make it any easier to quit this habit and learn how to stop biting nails. Especially not for children. The best way to remedy this bad habit is to encourage a different habit in its place. For example, if your child bites their nails when nervous, consider giving them a stress ball to play with. A stress ball gives them something to do with their hands and won’t result in bits of the nail and other debris getting into their mouths. Or if they do it when they need to concentrate, encourage drawing, or get up and walk about the room. Keeping your child’s nails extra short with regular trimmings can also help curb the habit as it removes what they would bite altogether.

Have other questions about nail-biting, how to stop biting nails, or about other habits that negatively impact teeth? Contact our friendly team at Triangle Dentistry.

Triangle Dentistry, located in Raleigh, NC, provides a state-of-the-art facility that offers exceptional general dental and specialty services guided by empathy of a patient’s needs and desires. Services range from dental crowns to veneers and whitening procedures. For further information, questions, or to schedule an appointment, contact the office at (919) 847-6000