Nail Biting and Its Effect on Oral Health

nail biting

Your kids develop many unhealthy habits as they are growing up. While some of them stop in childhood, others may carry on in their adulthood. Nail biting is one such habit.

If you see your little one chewing their nails all the time then you may want to address it to them.

Children bite nails when something is concerning them.

Though this habit has detrimental effects on their oral health too.

This article discusses how biting your nails can slowly worsen your or your child’s oral health in the long run.

Keep reading to know why you should quit this unhealthy habit soon.

child biting fingers

Why Children Bite Their Nails

This habit usually begins when children are 4 years old.

Around 30 percent of children and 50 percent of adolescents bite their nails.

Usually, children will give up this habit by they are 10 or continue it till they are 18.

This habit stems from anxiety and stress in children.

It can also be due to nervousness, a psychological disorder such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or an outlet to relieve stress.

Sometimes the nail biting habit is simply a natural progression.

Children go from thumb sucking and finger sucking to biting their nails.

Plus it can also be means of relieving boredom and aiming for perfectionism.

It is a body-focused repetitive behavior or disorder similar to pulling your hair and picking scabs.

To make things worse, this is a difficult habit to break.

Hence, you or your child may continue it for a long time if they do not stop earlier or you interfere to break the habit.

In fact, they may not even realize when they are doing it.

Thus, it becomes harder to stop.

Also, that it is comforting and gives you something to do can create hindrance quitting it.

However, there are several ways to quit it. They just require effort.

But before that, let’s find out how this habit is harmful to your oral health in the first place.

nail biting consequencesNail Biting Affecting Oral Health

Chipped Teeth 

Biting your nails can chip off your teeth.

This happens because when you constantly bite off your nails then you are at risk of fracturing your front teeth.

In fact, you may damage them enough that they can simply fall out.

Moreover, this action can weaken your tooth enamel.

Therefore, your teeth will become yellower and you are at a greater risk of getting cavities.

Plus, as you keep biting your nails then your nails grow harder from the nail bed.

Hence, people nail biting for a long term have to put more pressure to keep chewing them.

The nails will worsen as you keep biting them and so will your teeth.


When you are biting your teeth, you tend to put pressure on your jaw bone.

Thus, the upper and lower teeth come together and shift from their original position.

Furthermore, the gaps between your top teeth increase.

Hence, you get a bad bite.

The pressure can be intense enough to displace your jaw.

Since the shape of your teeth worsens then you may need a dental treatment to correct them.

teeth grinding

Teeth Grinding

If you bite your nails, you are also susceptible to grinding your teeth at night.

Especially if your biting habit originates from stress, nervousness or anxiety.

You may be teeth grinding while you are asleep.

This can hurt your molars and canines.

What’s worse, that bruxism leads to many other problems.

It can cause headaches, ear pain, jaw pain as well as enamel erosion.

Your enamel wears down over time when you constantly grind your teeth.

This can open up other oral health problems such as tooth cavity and tooth decay.

Root Resorption 

Since this habit puts pressure on teeth and jaws, it can lead to the reabsorption of the roots of the jaw bone.

Hence, the teeth weaken.

This puts them at risk of falling out.

The risk of tooth loss and resorption will be greater if you wear braces.

This brings us to…

Breaks Dental Braces 

Besides not eating popcorn you should also avoid biting your nails if you were braces.

You are more susceptible to root resorption while wearing teeth braces.

This occurs when your body’s cells start destroying the tooth structure.

Furthermore, you will break the brackets and wires while you are constantly chipping off your nails from your teeth.

nail biting causing gingivitis

Gum Disease 

It is a no-brainer that if dirty nails get into your mouth then they can cause infection or gum disease.

You give a free passage to the germs and bacteria to enter your mouth.

Their end results could be severe infections that irritate your gums and a multitude of oral health problems.

Furthermore, it can lead to gingivitis and gingival trauma.

There is also a chance of fingernails getting stuck in gums which could be very dangerous for your oral health.

Damages TMJ

The biting action can damage the TMJ.

This in return causes chewing difficulties and jaw pain.

Damaging Gums 

Biting nails will not only affect your teeth but also your gums.

It can scratch the gum’s surface.

Moreover, your gums can have sharp and jagged edges.

The bacteria on the nails can also infect the gums.

Bad Breath 

Your breath smells bad because of all the bacteria growing inside your mouth.

If you bring your teeth in contact with the bacteria and germs in your fingernails then that is bound to accumulate in your mouth.

Hence, causing bad breath.

Now that you know that there are terrible consequences of biting your nails you would want to quit it.

However, you will soon realize that this habit is difficult to quit.

Though if you persist and consciously lookout for triggers then you can control it and so can your child.

stopping nail biting

Ways to Stop Nail Biting

Find Out Your Triggers

In order to avoid this habit, you will have to find out the cause behind it.

Notice if it stems from boredom, anxiety, or stress.

You can stop yourself right when you are doing it by keeping a track of what causes it.

Plus you can manage stress by exercising and meditation.

Start with brisk walking for 15 minutes a day and then gradually increase the time to improve your mental health.

This will help you and other nail biters to stay in the moment and calm down your anxieties and also to sop biting your nails.

Kids should also exercise to manage their anxiety and stress.

Overstimulation can also cause them to become anxious and nervous.

Hence parents should find activities for them to stay active throughout the day.

Keeping Nails Short 

It is best to completely remove the object from your site if you want to get rid of a bad habit.

In this case, that’s your nails.

If your nails are long then you will be more tempted to bite them off.

However, if you regularly cut them short then there is no material to bite on.

Clip the nails of your kids too as this can help end the chronic condition of nail biting.

Trim them regularly so that they find nothing if they get their fingers near their mouth.

Keep Your Nails Pretty Enough to Not Bite Them 

Have you ever thought about wearing nail polish or getting an expensive manicure to prevent biting?

Well, if you did not yet, you should now!

Believe it or not but getting an expensive manicure will prevent you from wasting all that money by biting it off.

Similarly, wearing pretty nail polish can help you avoid damaging the nail art.

Also, there are specific bitter nail polishes that are made to break this unhealthy habit.

Apply them to your or your child’s nails.

Whenever you will bring the fingernails closer to your mouth, you will feel a bitter taste instead.

Hence, you or your child will no longer bite their fingernails.




Whenever you see your child eating their nails, busy their hands with something else.

When the hands are occupied with a fidget spinner, stress ball or silly putty or any other electronic device then they will not get closer to the mouth.

Hence, keep the hands busy or you can also wear gloves to keep the nails out of sight.

You can also occupy the mouth, not only the hands.

Sugar-free chewing gum is also good for your teeth and will keep you from biting nails.

So if you keep chewing gum then you will not be able to bite your nails as often.

Taking Help 

You can take help from your peers or from a specialist.

Ask the people around to stop you every time they catch you biting nails.

This way at least you will know whenever you are doing it.

If you think none of this works then consult a specialist.

You can get behavior therapy if this habit greatly affects the quality of your life.

Visit a Dentist

If you habitually bite your nails then consulting your dentist should be your top priority.

You may not be able to decipher the extent of damage this innocent habit can cause.

Hence, visit your dentist often to find out if it is causing enamel erosion, malocclusion, TMJD, Bruxism or bad breath.

If your habit continues then your oral health problems can worsen too.

Hence, do not skip the bi-annual checkups and talk to your doctor about the side effects of this habit.


Nail Biting is a chronic habit for many.

Thus, it isn’t easy to go cold turkey.

Take it slow and work on one finger at a time.

Also, note the time you spend on biting nails and reduce that gradually.

Any step you take to get rid of the habit will eventually benefit your teeth in the long run.

Hence, if you are biting your nails while reading this article, it is high time you stop and implement the ways that we mentioned here.

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