Biting fingernails

How Biting Your Nails Damages Your Teeth

Do you bite your nails?

Maybe it’s a nervous habit. Maybe you noticed that they’re getting long and you cannot wait another second to get them to a more appropriate length.

Whatever the reason, you’re not alone.

The statistics vary, but roughly 20-33% of children and 45% of teenagers bite their nails. Those numbers decline in adults, but maybe you’re having trouble kicking the habit. It’s harmless, right?

Actually, it isn’t.

Biting your nails damages your teeth

It doesn’t just negatively affect the look of them by causing erosion, chipping, and cracking. Biting your nails can have significant restorative damage, too.

When you’re constantly biting your nails, you’re putting pressure on your jaw bone. This can cause your teeth (or even your jaws) to shift and lead to something called a malocclusion, which is a problem with your bite. When this happens, you may need braces, a retainer, even surgery to correct your bite.

Root resorption is something else to consider next time you bring your fingers to your mouth. This happens when your body’s immune system dissolves the tooth root structure. While this process mainly happens when you lose your baby teeth, biting your nails adds pressure to your teeth and causes the roots to reabsorb into your jaw bone.

And if you’re still not convinced that biting your nails isn’t worth costly treatments and more time in the dentist’s chair…

Your nails are a breeding ground for bacteria

The space under your nails, also called the subungual region, is home to hundreds of thousands of bacteria per fingertip.

When you bite your nails, you’re sucking all of those nasty, illness-causing particles into your mouth. This can lead to gingivitis and periodontitis, which is another name for gum disease.

When you’re constantly exposing your mouth to bacteria, it causes a plaque buildup which can lead to gingivitis. Because it doesn’t always have symptoms, you may have gingivitis without knowing it. If left untreated, the plaque can spread to the gumline and release toxins and irritate your gums. Your body will begin to respond in a way that can damage your gums and the bones that keep your teeth in place. The result of this response is periodontitis.

This issue isn’t just confined to your mouth. The bacteria in your mouth can enter your veins and make their way to your heart and damage other areas of your body.

Can teeth damaged from nail biting be repaired?

While biting your nails can cause significant harm to your teeth, gums, and jaws, your dentist may be able to help mitigate the damage. In most cases, restorative dentistry is the best option to prevent further damage to the structure of your teeth. In some instances, your dentist may opt for bonding to repair a chipped tooth.

However, if you continue to bite your nails after your dentist fixes the issues, you’re essentially throwing the time and money you invested away. You may even cause more damage than what was previously there.

The best thing you can do for a healthy mouth is to stop using your fingertips as a snack and instead use them to book an appointment with Dr. Andrea Stevens.

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