Archives for January 2015

Nail Biting Can be Hazardous to your Teeth

single tooth photo

You are more than just a tooth!

We treat every single one of our patients as unique individuals with unique needs. Many have healthy gums and teeth and rarely have any treatment needs. Others will come in needing fillings or crowns. Some will need their wisdom teeth out. Others will need dental implants.

Occasionally, a patient will come in with a unique and unexpected finding causing us to have to “think outside the box” to determine what is going on.

One patient came in just recently. Everything was unremarkable except for a very unique wear pattern with her front teeth. We spent over five minutes interrogating her in our attempts to find out what was going on! We finally identified the culprit:

Detailed photo showing wear of teeth from nail biting

Her front teeth showing a highly unusual wear pattern; the culprit is her finger! You can see how her fingernails fit perfectly into the newly created groove on her two lower front teeth.

On questioning, she admitted to obsessively biting her nails. This was a new habit as she had recently started a stressful graduate program. Not surprisingly, all 9 other digits looked exactly like this!

Why Nail Biting is Bad for your Oral Health

Even though it took us time to properly diagnose this patient, we were already well aware of the detrimental effects that nail biting (the technical term is onychophagia) has on your teeth. Some of these include:

  • Significant wear of the front teeth as seen above. If the wear is bad enough, it can lead to thousands of dollars in treatment needs.
  • Your nails are very unsanitary – it is estimated they harbor twice as much bacteria as your fingers. This can introduce new bacteria into your mouth. It can also lead to nail infections (see below).
  • Repeated nail biting can actually move your teeth. The forces are much stronger than braces.

Nail biting is bad for your overall health too. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, bacterial infections from nail biting can and do happen quite frequently.

How to Stop Biting your Nails

This is not necessarily easy. It comes down to two approaches:

  • Just stop yourself when you put your finger(s) in your mouth.
  • Buy one of the many over the counter products that you paint on your nails. They taste horrible!¬†But they’re supposed to. That’s how they work. Just Google it or look at this one product.

We’ll post more photos from nail biting once we see more!