Nail biting causes tooth decay

If you've reached this article by asking Google 'Does nail biting cause tooth decay?'I imagine that this is a question that worries you because you or someone very close to you (probably a child) has developed this habit, so you won't like the answer I can give you. 

Nail biting is a behaviour motivated by nerves or stress, or even boredom, which not only damages the aesthetics of our hands (by removing the cuticle) but also affects our dental health. 

Known as onychophagiais present in 45 to 60% of minors, and it usually disappears by itself in youth, and adults who suffer from it do not have a significant number of them. However, during adolescence and pre-adolescence it tends to cause a lot of headaches, as it is an intuitive and involuntary habit, which usually requires a great deal of effort and sometimes help from others in order to stop. 

7 Negative effects of nail biting

  1. Bacteria and infections. When we bite our nails, we put our hands in our mouth, usually without having previously sanitised them, which exposes us to the risk of suffering severe oral infections, such as gingivitis, thrush or herpes, due to exposure to these bacteria and fungi. 
  2. Dental wear. When we bite our nails we exert pressure on our teeth and this causes abrasion of the tooth enamel, and the risk is even greater in patients with orthodontics, as they are at risk of suffering root resorption or tooth loss. 
  3. Increased tooth decay. Prolonged exposure to the bacteria that can populate our nails and hands can increase the risk of tooth decay. 
  4. Halitosis. The bacteria we are exposed to when we bite our nails can also cause us to develop bad breath.
  5. Mandibular disorders. Continuous biting contributes to the appearance of alterations in the temporomandibular joint, commonly known as TMJ. Among the discomfort that can be felt are problems opening or closing the mouth, headaches, earaches and jaw pain. 
  6. Deterioration in restorations. If the person has restorations or composite fillings, deterioration may be located in these. 
  7. Bruxism. The pressure we put on our teeth by biting our nails can lead to bruxism, the consequences of which include headaches, receding gums, tooth sensitivity and, in more severe cases, tooth loss. 

It can also have further consequences in other parts of the body such as: 

  • Intestinal infections
  • Parasites
  • Bacterial infections
  • Viral diseases

How to stop biting your nails?

For anyone affected by this nervous habit, nail biting becomes a behaviour that causes physical and emotional discomfort and that they try to give up. The problem is that it is an unconscious behaviour, and those who suffer from it often catch themselves doing it while thinking about something else or trying to stay focused (which is why it is so typical of the school years), and so it becomes a difficult habit to give up. 

However, here are some tips you can put into practice:

1. Increase your calcium and magnesium intake.

Both calcium and magnesium are involved in strengthening the nails and their consumption in appropriate amounts helps to stimulate their growth. healthy growth.

Some natural sources of these minerals are:

  • Broccoli
  • Milk and milk products
  • Soy
  • Frutos secos
  • Fish
  • Chocolate 

2. Use a hardening enamel

One of the most commonly used methods is to apply a special polish or varnish that hardens the nail or adds an unpleasant flavour to it, thus helping us to combat the more unconscious part of the habit. 

3. Protect your nails

It is advisable to wear gloves or some other means of protection that prevents nails from coming into contact with detergents or other aggressive chemicals. This is because they can worsen the problem of weakness and cause breakage.

4. Distract yourself by biting something else

Although the general idea is to stop biting, distracting the mouth with another element when watching TV or waiting for public transport, for example, is a way to avoid damaging the nails. Chewing a piece of gum, a piece of candy or a vegetable are good options to forget about this bad habit.

5. Use moisturiser

Hands and nails need daily moisturising to stay beautiful. Constant biting causes dryness and increases the need for moisture.

Author: Jacobo Martínez (Dental Hygienist)