Humans have a long history battling nervous habits, with nail biting at the very top of the list. Biting the nails is often an action used to deal with anxiety, hunger, boredom, or everyday stresses. Children and adults alike can develop this habit, one that can affect both oral and dental health. Not only does this nervous habit affect the appearance of nails, it can also seriously damage teeth, gums, and surrounding nerves and blood vessels.
Nail biting, or onychophagia, is considered an impulsive control issue characterized by a strong desire to engage the muscles of the jaw and function of the teeth. If left untreated, onychophagia can lead to a number of teeth-related issues, including:
Bruxism – Continuously biting the nails can lead to developing a muscle habit in the jaw, promoting an urge to clench together the teeth and jaw muscles. This is bruxism at its very core, an issue that can degrade the teeth and inflame surrounding nerves. Teeth clenching may occur at night during sleep and can lead to a slow destruction of teeth structure, function, and appearance.
Gingival Injury – Also known as the gums, gingiva is the soft tissue layer that covers the mandible. When one bites their fingernails, the gums often receive slight indentations, scratches, or disturbances, contributing to the slow development of injury to the gingiva. Bleeding, soreness, and inflammation are the common symptoms of gingival injury in relation to onychophagia and may often need treatment by a dentist, depending on the severity of the issue.
Malocclusion – Biting nails, especially during childhood when the jaw and teeth are in constant development, can lead to misalignment of teeth, or malocclusion. It is suggested that non-physiological actions, like biting the nails, can lead to the crowding or rotation of teeth, affecting overall appearance.
Creating unnecessary pressure on teeth and gums through the habit of onychophagia can create dental problems that will often require extensive dental visits. If you are concerned with this nervous habit and its related symptoms, please contact our professional dental team today. We will be more than happy to discuss your concerns and treatment-related goals.
Mark E. Massaro, DDS
3150 East 41st Street
Wellington Square Suite 141
Tulsa, OK 74105
Dr. Mark Massaro is a Tulsa, OK dental professional dedicated to General, Family & Cosmetic Dentistry such as Dental Exams, Cleanings, X-rays, Smile Makeovers, Zoom Teeth Whitening, Lumineers, Crowns, & more.