Nail Biting Can Be Harmful to Teeth

Nail biting can be a hard habit to break — but if you don't, your dental health might suffer much more than your manicure.

According to the Academy of General Dentistry, children or adults who bite their nails could crack, chip or wear down their front teeth from the stress caused by biting. And, those who wear braces put their teeth at even greater risk for root resorption (a shortening of the roots) or tooth loss, since braces already put increased pressure on the teeth.

A study in the journal General Dentistry also reported that patients who bite their fingernails, chew on pencils or clench their teeth might be at a greater risk for bruxism — unintentional grinding or clenching that can cause facial pain, headaches, tooth sensitivity, recessed gums and tooth loss.

The signs of bruxism include: flat looking tips of the teeth; tooth enamel that is worn off, causing extreme sensitivity; popping or clicking of the jaw; and indentations of the tongue.

Other dental health risks for nail biters can include sore, torn or damaged gum tissue caused by jagged, sharp fingernail edges and the spread of bacteria from other body parts to the mouth and from the mouth to the nail bed or bloodstream.

Patients might find that wearing a mouth guard can deter nail biting and help prevent further damage to teeth. Some dentists can also help patients use therapy techniques, like learning how to rest the tongue upward with teeth apart and lips shut to avoid tooth damage.

Visit the American Dental Association Web site at for helpful tips for patients with bruxism.

© 2017 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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