nail bitingWe all struggle with bad habits, and for many people nail biting is one of them. It may seem like a harmless enough habit, but it can have bad consequences for your health and your personal appearance. If you want to quit biting your nails, there are some positive actions you can take. We will go through them in this blog. 

Why Do People Bite Their Fingernails?

Nearly everyone has bitten a fingernail at least once in their life. Sometimes a nail splits and it hurts or it catches on things. You don’t have a fingernail clipper handy, so you bite off the rough edge. Children often bite their nails too. 

Both children and adults can develop a nail biting habit as a way to relieve stress or just out of boredom. While we all need coping mechanisms, biting your nails (and cuticles) can be harmful in a number of ways. 

First, we use our hands for many things. Fingers and hands are extremely germy surfaces, as is evidenced by public health officials telling us to wash them often during cold and flu season, and COVID outbreaks. Introducing whatever is on your hands into your body is not very sanitary. Additionally, if you swallow the nails, they can do damage to the epithelial lining of your esophagus and stomach. They will not digest, so if they’re sharp, they will make their way through your entire body potentially scratching up your digestive tract. 

Second, bitten nails and cuticles can also get infected which can mean pain, swelling, or worse. If you want nice looking hands and nails, you will not bite them. 

Finally, biting through fingernails puts pressure on your front teeth which can crack or chip as a result. You may not notice this cracking occurring, but over time it can affect the appearance of your teeth and smile. 

What Can You Do about Your Nail Biting Habit?

It’s hard to break a habit, and the longer you’ve been doing it, the more unconscious it will be and the more you will have to focus on what you’re doing to stop it. You will have to teach yourself to stop biting your nails and practice other interventions to break that habit, including:

  • Keeping your fingernails short so there’s nothing to bite
  • Applying a bitter-tasting nail polish treatment that will make you aware if you forget
  • Covering your fingernails with tape or press-on nails
  • Getting a manicure that will make you more invested in the way your nails look
  • Diverting your attention with another stress-busting activity 
  • Chewing gum
  • Identifying your stressors and eliminating or reducing them

You can either try to stop biting your nails gradually or quit cold turkey. If one approach fails, you can try the other. Some people try to quit biting their thumbnails first and, with success, they add more until they break the habit entirely.

If you have a nail biting problem, you can break it. This is doable. It may take time, and you may fall back on your habit in moments of stress, but keep trying! Most nail biters will not develop bigger health problems if they break the habit early on. If you have questions about how your nail biting may have affected your teeth, consult your dentist. He will be able to tell you what other actions you should take, if any.