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Nail Biting Habits

Everyone experiences stress and anxiety in their lives, whether from tests, work, managing a family, or experiencing a life-altering event. Sometimes this stress manifests as a poor habit, such as nail biting. At first, mere habits may seem harmless, but continuous nail biting can create unfortunate, expensive, and even painful side effects.

Nail-biting often begins in childhood and is most common among young girls and women. Side effects may be detrimental to oral health when nail biting occurs during developmental years and continues for long periods of time. Nail biters often wear down their tooth enamel, increase the probability of a chipped a tooth, and increase tooth sensitivity. Additionally, children, who often bite their nails, may experience a gap between their front teeth, known as a diastema.

Other side effects caused by nail biting may include:

Temporomandibular Joint disorders (TMJ)

A tension/discomfort in the mandibular muscles

Bruxism or teeth grinding

Increase tooth sensitivity

Increase exposure to bacteria

Misalignment of teeth or bite

May encourage nervous gum picking

Increase in gingivitis

Increase in cavities Habits are not without consequence. Nail biting habits, in excess and over the years, may damage an individual’s oral health. There are ways to help prevent nail biting, such as keeping nails short or painting fingernails with bitter or peppery products. If a child begins nail-biting, encourage them to stop before further damage. For girls, offer an incentive such as to paint their nails or go for a manicure as a special treat when their nails grow in length. Click HERE to read a study conducted by the US National Library of Medicine: National Institutes of Health.


  • ucla
  • Weill Cornell Medical College - Cornell University
  • Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
  • John Hopkins Medicine
  • University of maryland
  • USC

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