While most people may think that nail biting is just a bad habit that leaves your nails and cuticles ragged, we want to share some findings on the effect it can have on the health of your teeth and TMJ (the ”jaw joint”). Many studies have pointed out that nail biting makes a person more likely to pick up bacteria such as salmonella (and even E.Coli), which can thrive along the edges of nail beds and under the tips. The HPV virus, which causes warts, can also enter the body if picked up on your fingertips and transferred to your mouth.
We also need to consider what these forces are straining or damaging in the jaw joint, which attaches to your head near your ears. Considering the amount of stress that is concentrated on one spot as you are biting your nails. This is a lot of force considering that your jaw muscles, for most people, are the strongest ones in your body. These forces are strong enough to cause fractures of natural tooth structure or of restorations on your teeth. The Academy of General Dentistry estimates that nail-biters can rack up around $4,000 in additional dental bills over the course of their lifetime!
So, how can we break this habit? Here are a few suggestions from your local Plymouth, MN dentists:
- Coat nails with a bitter-tasting polish specially formulated for people trying to quit nail-biting, or a clear or colored polish to discourage you from nibbling.
- Keep nails short, so there’s less surface area to bite.
- If you bite your nails because of stress, try yoga, meditation, deep breathing or exercise to calm you instead.
- Invest in regular manicures. Spending money on keeping nails well-groomed will make you think twice about biting them.
- Try aversion therapy: place a rubberband around your wrist, and snap it whenever you feel the urge to nibble on your nails.
- Look up photos of what the bacteria under your fingernails looks like. Just thinking about the dirt and germs on your nails might turn you off biting for good.