Ask a Dentist

May 14, 2020

Q: How does biting my nails affect my teeth?

Young woman biting her nails

A: It can be difficult to stop biting your nails, but you should for the sake of your teeth. It is a habit that is generally developed when you’re a child and can continue into adulthood.

According to the Academy of General Dentistry, nail-biting can crack, chip and wear down your front teeth. The habit can even put you at risk for root resorption (a shortening of the roots), especially if you have braces since braces already put extra strain and pressure on your teeth.

Biting your nails can also lead to damaged gum tissue from the torn edges of your fingernails, causing soreness and unnecessarily spreading bacteria from your hands to your mouth. Make sure you have proper oral hygiene habits; brush twice a day for at least two minutes and floss regularly.

Higher Risk of Bruxism

A study in General Dentistry stated that people who bite their nails may be at a higher risk of bruxism. Bruxism is when you unintentionally grind or clench your teeth leading to increased sensitivity, pain and headaches. For bruxism, one technique you can try is to rest your tongue upwards while keeping your teeth apart and lips shut. Consciously practicing this will encourage your teeth to remain unclenched, saving them from extra pressure throughout the day. If you find that your habits occur as you sleep, a night-guard might do the trick.

To attempt to break your habit of nail-biting, try some of the following techniques:

  • Ensure your nails are cut short
  • Coat them with a bad taste
  • Splurge on manicures
  • Figure out your triggers, why are you biting your nails?

If your nail-biting habit is stress-related, find the causes and try to learn other coping mechanisms. Meditation and mindfulness are ways that can reduce stress in your everyday life. Other stress-reducing techniques are developing habits and hobbies that are good for your mind and well-being. Exercising releases endorphins and decreases stress levels. Making time to have fun with your family and friends can be great stress-relievers. Or just take time for yourself. Scheduling time to destress is important for your oral health and your overall health.

If you struggle with nail-biting and bruxism, be sure to ask your dentist if there are more techniques or treatments that would be right for you. Our dentists would be happy to answer any of your nail-biting related questions at one of our Winnipeg dental clinic locations.