Many people bite their nails. For them, the habit may seem relatively harmless. In fact, some people feel that nailbiting helps them reduce their stress levels. Nevertheless, many dentists warn against nailbiting.
Here are a few reasons not to bite your nails.
Injury to the Gums
Your gums are sensitive, soft tissues within the mouth. They can easily be injured by sharp objects. Thin slivers of fingernails can scratch or cut the gums, making them more susceptible to irritation and infection.
In some cases, a sliver of nail material may become caught between the teeth and pushed into the gums or into the space between the teeth and gums. The trapped nails may cause a bacterial infection. Left untreated, a gingival infection could spread to the jawbone or become systemic through the bloodstream.
Additional Surface Area for Plaque Accumulation
Fingernails that are caught between the teeth may not dislodge easily during brushing sessions. As a result, the nails may provide additional surface area for plaque accumulation.
Dental plaque is a sticky substance that is comprised of food particles and oral bacteria. The stickiness of the mixture is due to the biofilm that the bacteria produce.
When bits of fingernail material are left in the mouth, the sticky plaque adheres to it. With more areas to build up near the teeth, the plaque can cause more damage through its production of decay-causing bacterial acids.
Damage to the Teeth Through Bite Pressure
As a person bites their nails, they may exert so much pressure that they cause injury to their teeth. As the teeth of the upper and lower palates are pressed against one another during nailbiting sessions, cracks, chips, and other problems may develop.
Serious cracks may divide the roots of a tooth, resulting in the need for an extraction. Less-serious fissures or chips may require restorative treatments, such as an application of bonding material or a dental crown.
Damage to Appliances
Nailbiting may also cause damage to oral appliances, such as braces. The nails can become caught on the wires of the devices, pulling or breaking them. Damaged brackets or archwires may have to be replaced. Additionally, appliance parts that become distended from the nailbiting may cut or irritate the inner cheeks, tongue, or gums.
For more information about the effects of nailbiting on your teeth, gums, and oral appliances, schedule a consultation with a dentist in your local area.