Nail-biting is a common habit. A majority of kids chew their fingernails at least at some point during their childhood, and teens and adult frequently continue the habit. Like most nervous habits, nail-biting typically becomes a subconscious practice that surfaces most when you feel stressed in some way: hunger, boredom, frustration, complexity, etc. We want to help you help your kids navigate this common phase.
Besides being a little painful for your fingers, it might seem like biting nails is a fairly harmless practice, but did you know that nail-biting can actually damage teeth and compromise oral and general health? How?
There are a couple of ways that this can happen:
- Chewing your nails on a regular basis can lead to chronic jaw tension or even the development of TMJ.
- Biting into hard surfaces like your nails can actually create cracks or chips in your front teeth, which are not meant to handle the same of consistent grinding and wear and tear that your molars are designed to manage. Your front teeth are more likely to wear down, become misaligned, or break as a result of biting your nails. This is especially true if you have braces. Braces put a sustainable and steady amount of pressure on the teeth in order to help them shift over time, but when it comes to biting hard things, since the teeth are already under pressure, they are more susceptible to damage. (This heightened susceptibility to harm is one of the reasons that orthodontists advise staying away from most hard foods as well as things like chewing ice while you have braces!)
- Plain and simple (and gross!), your fingers and fingernail crevices house an awful lot of bacteria. When you chew your nails, you give bacteria a free entrance into your system, exposing yourself to a whole lot of germs.
How can your kids (or you, for that matter!) break this habit? We’ll take up that topic in a future post.