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Steven Rhodes, DDS
Board Certified Prosthodontist
"Hands that change the world one mouth at a time"
Call: (702)384-4896

Dental Blog

  Nail Biting And Oral Health

 


WE CALL SUSPENSEFUL BOOKS “nail-biters,” but the habit of nail biting itself has less exciting connotations.

The most obvious consequence is torn, uneven nails, and in particularly severe cases, nails that become dramatically shortened and deformed over time. This alone would be enough of a reason to discourage the habit, but far more insidious are the effects of nail biting on teeth and oral health.

Consequences For Teeth And Gums

Teeth should never be used as tools, and that includes using them as nail clippers. Over time, nail biting, or oncyophagia, can lead to a variety of complications.

Malocclusion and gaps

Grinding the front teeth together in order to bite through nails can gradually cause them to shift, creating a bad bite—malocclusion—or a gap between the top teeth.

Wearing, chipping, and cracking

At the same time that teeth are shifting into less than ideal positions, they could also be getting chipped or cracked, and they are certainly being worn down.

Root resorption

The pressure chewing nails places on the teeth can actually cause the jaw bone to begin re-absorbing the roots of those teeth, weakening them and increasing the risk of tooth loss. Having braces makes the risk of root resorption even greater.

Gingivitis

Fingernails trap a lot of dirt and microorganisms under them, and chewing on them introduces all of that bacteria to the mouth, which can lead to gum disease.

Increased risk of developing bruxism

People who chew their nails are more likely to develop a chronic teeth-grinding habit, which causes even more problems for the teeth, as well as frequent headaches and facial pain.

Why Does It Happen?

Compulsive nail biting has traditionally been thought of as a nervous habit, but recent studies indicate it may have to do with boredom and perfectionism as well as anxiety. It’s one of several body-focused repetitive disorders, such as picking scabs and pulling hair. Biting nails can be comforting or it can simply provide something to do. Many people who bite their nails don’t even notice they’re doing it. That, of course, makes stopping much harder.

Breaking The Habit

There are many different strategies nail-biters can use to help overcome the urge to keep chewing those nails.


  • Keep nails trimmed short so there isn’t much to bite.
  • Use bitter-tasting nail polish to make nail biting unpleasant.
  • Get manicures so that you’re more motivated to keep your nails looking nice.
  • Replace nail-biting with a different habit, such as squeezing a stress ball or playing with silly putty.
  • Identify your triggers. If you know the circumstances that cause you to bite your nails, you can make plans for dealing with them.
  • Stop gradually. Pick one or two fingernails at a time to stop biting (you might need to cover them to physically prevent yourself from biting them), then gradually add more fingernails until there are none left to bite!

We’re With You All The Way!

Our patients’ oral health is our top concern, which makes us your biggest ally against bad habits that put your oral health in jeopardy. If you have any questions or concerns about nail biting or would like more advice on putting the habit behind you, don’t hesitate to call us!

Our practice is rooting for you!

 The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

Top image by Flickr user Maxwell GS used under Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 4.0 license. Image cropped and modified from original.


How Your Oral And Overall Health Are Linked

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WE’VE SAID IT BEFORE AND WE’LL SAY IT AGAIN taking care of your teeth and mouth is more than just about cosmetics, it’s about your health! When you think of being healthy, your mouth probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. But your oral and overall health are more intertwined than you think.


Your Mouth Is The Gateway To The Rest Of Your Body

According to the U.S. Surgeon General’s 2000 report, “Oral health and general health should not be interpreted as separate entities. … As the gateway of the body, the mouth senses and responds to the external world and at the same time reflects what is happening deep inside the body. … You cannot be healthy without oral health.”

 

Periodontal Disease And Its Connection To Chronic Diseases

Not only can many illnesses and medications have a direct effect on your mouth, your oral health can also affect your body. This is especially true of periodontal or “gum” disease.

Diabetes

Did you know that gum disease affects 22 percent of people diagnosed with diabetes? People with diabetes have a decreased ability to fight off harmful bacteria and are thus more susceptible to gum disease. In like manner, bacteria from the mouth can cause blood sugar to spike and fluctuate, making diabetes harder to manage.

Heart Disease

While health care professionals aren’t completely sure as to why, heart and gum disease often go hand in hand. In fact, up to 91 percent of patients with heart disease have gum disease. It is believed that the link between these two conditions is inflammation.

Cancer

These statistics may surprise you, but researchers have found that men with gum disease were 54 percent more likely to develop pancreatic cancer, 49 percent more likely to develop kidney cancer and 30 percent more likely to develop blood cancers.

What’s more, cancer treatments often have oral manifestations. Chemotherapy and radiation can cause sores in the mouth, sensitive gums, jaw and facial pain and dry mouth.

 

Other Complications

Gum disease has also been linked with stroke, kidney disease, osteoporosis, certain lung conditions and rheumatoid arthritis. Pregnant women with gum disease are more likely to have preterm births and low birth-weight babies.

The Health Of Your Mouth Is In Your Hands

As you can see, there is a strong connection between oral and overall health. That’s why it’s important to make your dentist a part of your health care team by going to your regular dental appointments and updating them on your medical history. We care about your whole body health!

The good news is that, for the most part, dental disease is entirely preventable. Brushing twice a day and flossing daily can keep gum disease at bay and protect you from cavities. Your oral health is in your hands, so choose to be mouth-healthy!

Thank you for supporting our practice!

Top image by Flickr user Björn Söderqvist used under Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 4.0 license. Image cropped and modified from original.

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.






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