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Are you a nail biter?

Biting nails is one of the most common habits and can be a hard one to break but if you don’t trade in the chewing; your dental health might suffer much more than your manicure!

It’s not uncommon for children or adults, who bite their nails to crack, chip or wear down their front teeth from the stress caused by biting. Not only that, those who wear braces put their teeth at even greater risk for root resorption (a shortening of the roots).

Most of the time, nail-biting is a reaction to stress, but it can also be an unconscious nervous habit caused by boredom or frustration. However conscious or not, it can cause major damage to your teeth.

It’s not just nail biting that can cause damage, studies show that patients who chew on pencils or clench their teeth might be at a greater risk for bruxism — unintentional grinding or clenching that can cause facial pain, headaches, tooth sensitivity, receding gums and tooth loss.

The signs of bruxism include: flat looking tips of the teeth; tooth enamel that is worn off, causing extreme sensitivity; popping or clicking of the jaw; and indentations of the tongue.

Other dental health risks for nail biters can include sore, torn or damaged gum tissue caused by jagged, sharp fingernail edges and the spread of bacteria from other body parts to the mouth and from the mouth to the nail bed or bloodstream.

Patients might find that wearing a mouth guard can deter nail biting and help prevent further damage to teeth. Some dentists can also help patients use therapy techniques, like learning how to rest the tongue upward with teeth apart and lips shut to avoid tooth damage.

Quitting nail-biting can tough—but not impossible so here are some top tips to help you break the habit.

  1. 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. These can usually be found in most chemists or high street drug stores.

  2. Keep nails short, so there’s less surface area to bite.

  3. If you bite your nails because of stress, try yoga, meditation, deep breathing or exercise to calm you instead.

  4. Invest in regular manicures. Spending money on keeping nails well-groomed will make you think twice about biting them.

  5. Try aversion therapy: place a rubber band around your wrist and snap it whenever you feel the urge to nibble on your nails.

  6. 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.

For further information or advice contact College Street Dental Centre in Petersfield, Hampshire on 01730 263180


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