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Nail Biting

How Nail Biting Damages Your Appearance, Teeth, And Health

Also known as onychophagia, nail biting is a habit often done during times of stress, anxiety, boredom, or excitement.

It is often considered stress-relieving. In fact, about 50 percent of children from 10- 18-years-old  engage in nail-biting. Considering the habit frequently stops by age 30, fewer individuals bite their nails later in life.

Additionally, the habit of nail biting is said to be an oral compulsive habit or a parafunctional activity of a body part.

Although it will not typically cause permanent damage or severe side effects, nail biting has downsides that can affect your health.

Nail appearance

Nail biting will not give you the perfect-looking nails. The habit damages the tissues around your nails. When these tissues get damaged, your nails may grow in a strange manner or become deformed.


Because nail biting damages the nails, it leads to an unpleasant appearance that can give you an added dose of anxiety.

Take Amy Standen, a journalist, for instance, who was nail biter for 30 years. In her article Nail Biting: Mental Disorder or Just a Bad Habit?, she admitted that the appearance of her nails due to her habit made her ashamed to fill out forms in public places.

Oral health problems

You think biting your nails is only bad for your hands? Think again. Nail biting can chip, crack, or break your teeth, causing damage to your smile and oral health. It can also cause jaw problems, gingival injury, and malocclusion of the anterior teeth. Pinworms and bacteria buried on the nail’s surface can be transferred from the anus to the mouth that can lead to infection.


Nails can serve as breeding ground for germs. Therefore, biting them causes germs to get into your mouth which increases the possibility of bacteria to travel down to other areas of the body.

Your nails are not as hygienic as you want to think they are. In fact, hands are a source of germs with the nails providing the best hideout spot for them. When you bite your nails, the germs transfer to your mouth, and the possibility of it traveling down to other parts of your body is very likely. Worst, if you swallow your nails after biting them, your stomach will have to pay the price, especially if your nails are polished.

Tips For Stopping Nail Biting:

Stopping a habit is not easy. However, with patience and determination, it can be done. Here’s what you can do to break the habit:

  • Cut your nails short.
  • Coat them with a bitter flavor nail paint.
  • Wear gloves.
  • Root your triggers.
  • Keep your hands and mouth busy.
  • Tap your dentist for help. A mouth guard may be useful in the prevention of nail-biting.
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