A number of us might catch ourselves occasionally chewing on a nail during a time of high stress or a scary movie. However, according to the American Psychiatric Association, chronic nail biting is considered an impulse control disorder. The behaviour can also be classified as an OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder).
Regular nail biters do not discriminate among any of the ten fingers and tend to chew all of them equally. Unfortunately, several complications may arise from this behavior. Beside the obvious sanitary concerns, nail biting can damage cuticles, and cause dental and secondary bacterial infections.
Other reasons to stop the habit
• Fungal Infections
Nail biting leaves your nail naked and without its natural covering. The cuticle prevents bacteria and other infections such as fungus. When fungus enters your nails, there isn’t any quick fix. A treatment plan can take months.
• Bacterial Transmission
The nails are a perfect location for bacteria like E. coli and Salmonella to flourish. When you bite your fingernails, the bacteria goes through your mouth and passes into the rest of your body, and may begin to cause infections.
• Warts caused by HPV Infections
Warts on the fingers caused by HPV or the human papillomavirus are common among nail biters. These warts can spread to your lips and mouth as you chew on nails.
• Dental Problems
Biting your nails can also cause serious damage your front teeth. This alone should be enough reason to stop biting and develop a treatment plan.
Nail biting may also interfere with the way your lower and upper teeth come together after you close your mouth. The teeth may shift away from their proper position, wear down prematurely, become misshapen, and/or become weakened. The Academy of General Dentistry predicts that a frequent nail biter could rack up $4,000 in extra dental bills during the course of his/her life.
So, if you are still a nail biter, it isn’t too late to change. Once you are aware of the behaviour, you can help yourself. If you want to end the habit, here are some suggestions:
➔ Since the condition is related to stress, seek relief for your anxiety.
➔ Engage in an active hobby that will involve the use of your hands (e.g. painting, exercise).
➔ Apply a clear and bitter-tasting nail polish like Control it, Bite It, Mavala Stop, or Bite Ender.
➔ Investing in regular manicures can produce an extremely positive result because you may not want to bite after taking the time, effort and money to make your hands look nice.
Whatever motivates you to quit nail biting, try to be patient with yourself, be aware of the times you’re prone to do it, and try to stop. It may seem difficult at first, but you can get there.
Ohana Dental Clinic is happy to share some tips and guidance to help: 905.697.3440