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7 Reasons Why You Should Stop Biting Your Nails

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Posted on December 10 2018

Many of us did it as children. Some of us do it now as grown adults. Nail biting is a habit typically formed as a result of anxiety and stress. It can be a difficult habit to break, but after reading this, you might change your mind.

Onychophagia is the medical term for nail biting. It’s an oral health and grooming disorder characterized by uncontrollable nail biting. So whether you’re a chronic nail biter or you do it occasionally, listen up. Here are seven reasons why you shouldn’t bite your nails, as well as tips to break this habit ASAP!

1. Biting your nails can cause nasty skin infections.

According to dermatologist Debra Jaliman, MD, when you bite your nails, you increase the risk of bacterial infection under the nail, like paronychia, which causes redness, swelling, and the nail fills with pus. Gross!

2. Biting your nails can lead to arthritis, or even a disability.

A disability? Biting your nails can’t be that dangerous. According to David Katz, MD, if paronychia or other bacterial infections get out of control, they can result in a condition called septic arthritis, which is difficult to cure and may require surgery. In extreme cases, Dr. Katz says that it can also lead to permanent disability, or even a systemic infection that can be life threatening. Yikes!

3. Biting your nails causes nail deformities.

Dr. Jaliman says that chronic nail biting damages the nail matrix, which can lead to permanent nail deformities like ridges. Ridges are deep horizontal wrinkles or trenches in the nail. This could also cause your nails to stop growing temporarily (and sometimes permanently).

4. Biting your nails can transmit herpes to your fingers.

Wait, what? If you are prone to cold sores and you bite your nails, you increase the chances of transmitting a herpes infection to your fingers. According to the experts, it’s also easy for nail biters to pass warts on their hands to their lips/mouth. Disgusted yet?

5. Biting your nails damages your teeth.

This goes without saying, but if you bite your nails on a regular bases for a prolonged period of time, of course you increase your chances of damaging your teeth. Maryland-based dentist Gigi Meinecke says that chipped and broken front teeth are the most common problems she sees in patients who bite their nails. While biting your nails may not always result in a fracture, you can still split the tooth, which leads to staining and eventual decay.

6. Biting your nails can affect your bite.

Dr. Meinecke says that nail biting can completely change a patient’s “bite.” This is because they use the same teeth over and over again, and this repeated pressure can act like an orthodontic appliance.

7. Biting your nails causes gum pain.

Not to gross you out even more, but if you’re a chronic nail biter and are wondering why your gums hurt. This could be the reason. Dr. Meinecke warns that occasionally, nail fragments can become lodged into the gum tissue, causing painful inflammation and infection. Although this is uncommon, it can still happen.

Kick the Habit

Now it’s time to make the change! Here are some tips to help break the habit!

  • Keep your nails trimmed very short
  • Invest in weekly manis or try a deterrent, like Offly No Bite, which are bitter-tasting and meant to help you avoid putting your hands in your mouth
  • Hold on to an object, like a rubber band or stress ball when you feel the urge to bite your nails
  • Identify your triggers. Do you bite your nails with they're chipped? Do you bite them when you're anxious/stressed? Do you bite them out of boredom? Pay attention to triggers that'll help you pinpoint what's prompting the habit, and then address the problem

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