General Dental Informtion

Nail Biting

woman who biting her nail

Nail biting differs from thumb sucking. Thumb Sucking is a habit, but nail biting is an act by the child to reduce internal stress, for example during anger, tests, watching action movies, or reacting to hostilities from favorite individuals, such as the mother, whom the child is angry at.
Nails are the most sensitive parts of the skin that protect fingertips from physical and thermal damage. Delicate objects can be easily lifted with fingernails, and sewing with small needles is also thanks to nails. Nail biting, however, damages the surrounding skin and allows microbes under the skin. Lots of microbes and contamination also accumulate under fingernails and are transferred into the mouth after biting.

Nail biting is the most important disorder in 3-12-year-olds and is more common in girls, but also seen in adults. In addition to damaging fingers, it also damages oral and dental tissues and causes supraclusion and maxillofacial problems; the most important of which is the maxillary and mandibular incisor separation and glossocele, which causes ankyloglossia as well as problem in pronouncing sounds.

nail biting in adults

Factors affecting nail biting

There are several factors involved in nail biting. Excessive anger as a result of stress and anxiety, expectations of the child beyond his or her ability, problematic behaviors at school and the type of teacher’s treatment of the child are among these cases. Also malnutrition, especially deficiency of vitamin A and iron, which leads to aggravation of nervous conditions and the person tends to eat substances such as dirt or nails.

arents should consider the following points so as to make the child quit nail biting:

The best ways for quitting nail biting

Increase the quality of the family’s emotional space and create a joyful and safe space for your child. When evaluating your children’s behavior, always pay more attentions to their strengths than their weaknesses. Encourage their positive behaviors and be indifferent to their negative behaviors. Avoid rebuking your children. Don’t compare them with others. Don’t discriminate between them and their brothers or sisters. Delegate responsibilities at the house and school according to their abilities. Be careful not to expose your children to terrifying situations, including horror films and seeing imaginary and superstitious creatures.

Provide suitable entertainments during your child’s daily schedule. Identify you children’s talents and facilitate their participation in group games, social collaborations, schools, entertainment, and joyful and active sports. Avoid punishment, sore thumb, rubbing pepper on finger, and hitting their fingers with a ruler. A very effective method is to encourage and reward the child for their efforts in quitting nail biting so as to surprise to receive the reward. Having playmates and entertaining toys can also help your children quit their habit. Ridiculing and threatening will do no good. The treatment should include understanding the problem and helping the person to find a suitable personal compromise and solutions to relieve themselves of emotional strain.

Bathing the child before sleep, especially in a bubble-filled tub, excites and emotionally lulls the child to sleep. Listening to your stories during sleep can be helpful, and if the child needs to be more relaxed, rub their back or lie next to them in their bed. Lie next to them for the first few nights if you deem that necessary. Gradually reduce the time you spend with your child every night. Playing a soft and calming music is incredibly helpful while turning off the lights.

nail biting in children

Children may have bad and undesirable habits, such as thumb sucking, hair curling, bruxism (gnashing of teeth), nose-picking, chewing on objects, e.g. a pencil, obsessive scratching, head banging, biting themselves, e.g. on the hand, shaking their body parts, e.g. the leg, twirling, skin peeling, and nail biting.

In many cases, such habitual disorders can be solved with the help of patients, teachers, or a useful guide.

In a few cases, however, children hold onto these habits until adulthood, either voluntarily or involuntarily. Nail biting is one of the most common habitual disorders in adults. The affected individual often bites their fingernails during anger, nervous pressures, exhaustion, or in tense environments.

According to statistics, nail biting is common in children and teenagers, whereas 5% of them continue to have this habit as adults.

Possible Causes of nail biting

Some researchers believe that the most common causes for nail biting include stress, depression, and exhaustion.

Other possible causes for nail biting and other disorders include: Consuming narcotics, especially amphetamines and cocaine, important mental disorders, brain diseases, mental retardation, and lacking one of the five senses, such as hearing or eyesight.

Nail Biting Symptoms

It’s not unnatural for children to bite their nails, suck their thumb, or have other habitual disorders for a short time. If such habits become permanent and intensified, however, parents and other relatives should consider treatments.Symptoms of nail biting in an individual include:

  • Short and ridged fingernails
  • Oral herpes
  • Fungal nail infection, which causes skin redness and inflammation around the nail (paronychia)
  • Finger lesions caused by the herpes simplex virus
  • Eruption of decaying and damaged tooth in the child
  • Gingivitis and gum bleeding
  • Incisors’ fractures or cracks
  • Warts around nail folds
  • Nail Fungus

Effects of nail biting

In addition to a sense of embarrassment due to nail biting and having unpleasant nails, nail biting has other negative and harmful effects, including:

oral infections

While biting nails, the hands are often dirty. Hence, harmful bacteria and microbes cause oral, lip, and gingival infections. Did you know that about 2000 skin infections have been found in nail polish salons? Only then will you realize how susceptible you become to illnesses when you bite your nails.

Dental Problems

Nails are hard and biting them is difficult. Hence, you will damage your teeth if you bite your nails, especially the incisors. This habit changes your teeth’s appearance. Therefore, your incisors will be fractured or cracked in addition to having undesirable hands.

Inability to use hands

If you have a habit of constantly biting on your nails and having your hand inside your mouth, you cannot correctly carry out your professional duties. In severe cases, nail biting prevents the person from performing their normal and daily acts.

Nail infection

Nail biting causes your nails to become weak and loose, letting bacteria enter small cracks and wounds in your nails.Although some nail infections are treated easily, others such as nail infection are hard to treat.

Frequently asked questions regarding nail biting

1-What is nail biting?

Nail biting is a fairly common habit that includes people of all ages. The chronic or compulsory habit of nail biting is due to anxiety, stress, insecurity and other probable reasons. Studies show that 30% of people are used to biting their nails. The habit of biting nails may also occur in adults.

2-What factors cause nail biting?

Nail biting is a stress relieving habit that has been adopted by many children and adults. It happens in people when they are nervous, stressed, or hungry, and lack something, and this is a way to cope with these feelings.

3-Why can’t I stop biting my nails?

Nail biting is often a nervous habit or a way to relieve stress. So you can avoid biting your nails by engaging in an alternative behavior when you feel the need, especially one that keeps your hands busy. Most nail biting is automatic and you do it without thinking.

4-Is nail biting an addiction?

Nail biting is an addictive habit. Millions of people all over the world suffer from this painful addiction, which is harder than quitting smoking. But it is often overlooked as a somewhat benign habit.

5-How can we prevent nail biting?

Cut and trim your nails. If there are not enough nails to take your teeth, it will not be satisfactory when you try to bite. Cover them with bad taste. Glue on the nails so as not to bite them. Chew gum in order to keep your mouth busy.

6-Will nail biting cause stomach problems?

When you bite your nails, the bacteria under the nails enter your mouth and intestines to the point where they can cause gastrointestinal infections, leading to diarrhea and abdominal pain.

7-Is nail biting a sign of anxiety?

Nail biting is associated with anxiety because this habit relieves stress and tension. People who regularly bite their nails often report doing so when they feel nervous, bored, lonely, or even hungry.

Dr Abdolreza Jamilian Orthodontist
About Dr Abdolreza Jamilian Orthodontist

Dr. Jamilian, an orthodontist, has a specialized fellowship in orthodontic surgery and maxillofacial abnormalities and is a professor in the orthodontics department of the Dentistry School of the Islamic Azad University. He is member of Iranian and European Board of Orthodontics (EBO) and is a member of the Iranian, American and European Orthodontists Association.

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