If you're a nail biter, you probably already know that it's a bad habit that can potentially make your teeth crooked over time. However, it can still be hard to stop, and maybe you aren't bothered by the idea of crooked teeth. There are other ways that nail biting can potentially harm your mouth, however, so read on to learn why you really should break this habit.
Nails and fingers are a hotbed for bacteria and germs to grow. When you bite your nails, that bacteria goes directly into your mouth, where it can cause all kinds of havoc. Bacteria found under nails can potentially increase your risk of gum disease, tooth decay, or getting sick. If that's not enough to scare you, consider that fecal bacteria is often found under fingernails, which can potentially cause an E.coli bacterial infection.
Teeth are designed to withstand a lot of pressure during the normal grinding and cutting of food when you're eating, but biting nails is another matter.
When you bite your nails, a lot of pressure is needed to cut through the thin-but-hard surface of the fingernail. After the nail is severed, your upper and lower teeth slam together. While your teeth hitting each other once or twice won't cause any serious damage, after repeated nail biting, your teeth can potentially chip away at each other. If this damage goes on long enough, it can chip away at the enamel of the teeth, exposing the dentin, pulp, or even the tooth's nerves, causing pain and increasing the risk of decay or infection.
As if normal bacteria wasn't gross enough, it's actually possible to transmit STDs to your mouth via nail biting. If you touch a surface that's come into contact with an STD infection or that another person has touched after touching an infected region, the skin on your hands will prevent that virus from getting into your body. However, if you stick your fingers in your mouth to bite your nails, all bets are off.
The herpes virus, for example, can potentially make the jump from the genital area to the mouth, so someone else's genital herpes virus could potentially infect your mouth if you bite your nails after your hands have been exposed.
It can be hard to stop biting your nails, but you really should. Biting your nails is an embarrassing habit, but it can also put your overall oral health at risk. See your dentist to find out if you've already done damage to your gums, teeth, or mouth, and to ask for advice on how to stop biting your nails.