February 4, 2023

With all the things you touch throughout the day, doors, money, your phone, do you ever wonder how dirty your hands may be? More importantly, your fingernails are exponentially more dirty than your actual fingers, making them a hotspot for collecting germs that can make you sick. 
Many people are prone to nail biting as a common habit, but with what we know about all the dirt and grime that can collect in your nail beds, is it really that bad? 

Patients with nail biting habits can quickly become a dentist’s nightmare. Those with a history of braces or who wear a retainer can risk reversing the work they have already had done by biting their nails. A nail biting habit can cause teeth to move, break, or chip and tooth enamel can splinter. 
“Biting nails creates a friction between the tooth and the nail that can cause your teeth to erode over time, which can lead to other serious problems down the road like gingivitis,” says dentist Paul J. Condello, DMD. “Nail biting can also cause the teeth to move, leading to gaps and a misalignment of the upper and lower teeth.”
Biting your nails poses a threat to your gums. 
Nail biting can lead to chronic teeth grinding.
“Nail biting can increase the likelihood of developing a chronic teeth-grinding habit known as bruxism. Teeth grinding can lead to other oral health problems including headaches, jaw soreness, and TMJ syndrome,” adds Dr. Condello. “The friction of the teeth grinding against the nails can gradually wear away the protective enamel, or cause the teeth to crack or chip.”
Constantly bringing your nails into your mouth can bring E. coli, salmonella and the germs that cause the common cold as well as a plethora of others that may cause you to get sick. “Pathogens which transfer from your nails to the mouth during nail biting can lead to illness,” says Dr. Condello. 
A buildup of bacteria in your mouth can become more serious over time and cause other ailments such as infections in your stomach. 
When you bite your nails, you are in danger of developing a hangnail, an ingrown nail, or an infection. 
Many nail products such as polishes and gels contain toxins that put nail biters who paint their nails at risk. 
Nail polishes often contain chemicals such as formaldehyde, toluene, and dibutyl phthalate which are toxic and can be harmful to the body if exposed to over long periods of time. Although these chemicals are more of a concern for nail technicians, chronic nail biters are at risk due to long-term exposure. 
Knowing the risks of sickness and infection that come with nail biting can be enough to encourage an attempt of quitting. Although it can be difficult to stop abruptly, there are many techniques that nail biters can try to help kick their habit:
Although nail biting is not usually the cause for any serious health concerns, putting a stop to the habit can benefit you and your dental, nail, and overall health in the long run. 
The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.
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