This Bad Habit Can Harm Overall Health

We all have bad habits – whether you are a perpetual knuckle-cracker, a hair-twirler or a smoker, some habits are worse for you (and harder to stop) than others. But one habit in particular – nail-biting – could be a lot worse for you than you realize. Here’s why you should stop nail-biting right now for the health of your smile.

An estimated 20 to 30 percent of American adults bite their fingernails. But aside from this habit being bad for your fingernails, it’s dangerous for the rest of your body, too – especially your smile. Here’s why.


Your mouth is full of bacteria, and your hands touch a lot of dirty things throughout the day. When you bite your nails, you can easily transfer the bacteria in your mouth to cuts on your hands caused by torn fingernails. You can also transfer the bacteria on your hands – you guessed it – into your mouth, leaving both your fingers and gums susceptible to infection.

Wear and Tear

When you use your teeth for things they weren’t intended for (such as chewing pen caps, opening packaging or biting your nails), you cause excess wear and tear on your enamel. This can lead to chips and cracks in the enamel, making your smile look much older than it really is.

Temporomandibular Joint Pain

Because your teeth aren’t made to bite things as tough as fingernails, chewing on your nails can cause strain on your jaw. This in turn can cause another serious problem: temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder. TMJ disorder is a condition that affects the jaw joint and surrounding muscles. TMJ disorder can cause jaw stiffness, pain, migraine headaches, shoulder and back pain, tinnitus, and the inability to open and close the mouth.

Root Resorption

Root resorption can occur when a person bites his or her nails while wearing braces. Root resorption causes the body to eat away at the roots of the teeth.

How to Quit

Now that you know how important it is to quit nail-biting, here are some tips to stop this bad habit for good.

• Wear bitter-flavored nail polish.
• Keep nails cut short.
• Chew sugarless gum.
• Keep a stress toy like a fidget spinner, Play Doh or squeeze ball on hand.
• Get UV or Nexgen manicures that limit access to natural nails.

Quitting bad habits like nail-biting may not seem like a big deal, but when your smile and oral health are at stake, quitting is vital. Quitting may not be easy, but it will be worth it in the end. For questions about any of the oral health problems discussed, or to schedule an appointment, please call Dr. George’s office at 724-220-2347.

Dr. Alexandra S. George

Medically reviewed by Dr. Alexandra S. George - D.D.S., L.Vl.I.F. on September 17th, 2018