Nail Biting May Lead to Dental Issues

04-08-2014_nail-biting

Often times, people resort to nail biting out of boredom or anxiety. Whatever the reason, the end result is unsanitary, unhealthy, and can do irreversible harm to teeth resulting in needing to make an appointment with your dental office.

Biting fingernails can chip dental enamel; jagged nail edges can result in abrasions to soft mouth tissues which allow bacteria to permeate the mouth and can actually become infected; however a more serious concern involves altering the bite to accommodate the habit. Constant nail biting can encourage bruxism, which is when teeth grinding and clenching occurs also becoming habitual.

Grinding and clenching can be the result of a malocclusion, a condition where the top teeth do not align properly with the bottom teeth. Constant nail biting can result in a malocclusion as the patient will contort their mouth and jaw to make nail biting accessible.

Constant nail biting can result in a malocclusion as the patient will contort their mouth and jaw to make nail biting accessible.

Most nail biters start this habit at a very young age, and many outgrow it by the time they become adults. However, the damage can already be done. Children that were introduced to regular appointments with their dentist as youngsters will have received all the words of caution, but children often need additional reinforcement.

Parents that recognize the onset of this problem can get help from their dental office if needed. But there are a couple of things you might try. Biting nails is often a nervous habit, so if you can pin down when this action is likely to occur like when doing homework, you can encourage chewing sugar free gum while studying.

Putting a substance on nails during homework time that is bitter or bad tasting will alert the child when hands subconsciously go to the mouth.

If boredom triggers nail biting, help with finding a solution to keep your child active. Playing computer games keeps the hands busy, and provides an activity to alleviate boredom. Of course, as with anything, limits are important.

Knowing the triggers to nail biting will help to find a solution. Informing the nail biter of all the negative results their actions can create is sometimes enough to discourage the habit. But if not, perhaps an informative visit with our dental team will be enough to help break this habit.