Every time you are stressed or anxious, do you bite your nails? Nail-biting or onychophagia is commonly found in many people. Not only can this troubled habit damage your nails and teeth, but it can also make you susceptible to infection as bacteria and viruses can pass from your nails to your mouth and face.
Since childhood, it is recommended that you eat with clean hands for the simple reason that your hands have plenty of germs that can enter your body if you are not careful and cause problems such as stomach ache and infections. Our hands have 5,000 germs on them at any given time, according to a research. So, biting the nails or nibbling on dirty skin around them is as bad as eating with dirty hands. Eating with dirty hands and nail-biting can involve similar health risks as both result in transferring germs from the hands to the body’s internal systems.
Like teeth grinding, thumb sucking and skin picking, many people bite their nails when nervous, stressed, hungry, or bored. While biting your nails may help you soothe yourself right now, it only provides temporary relief.
Common Causes Of Nail Biting:
Your parents have or had a similar habit, emotional or mental stress, nervousness, anxiety, boredom, hunger or insecurity.
Health Reasons To Stop Biting Your Nails
Dental Problems. It can impact the developing mouth when nail biting begins in childhood. Chronic pressure from nail biting on the teeth may cause the front teeth to be misaligned where they meet when the jaw is closed. Nail biting causes small fractures at the teeth’s edges, increasing the risk of gingivitis.
Stomach Infection. Because fingernails are rarely clean, putting nails in your mouth (and even worse, swallowing the bitten off portion) can lead to various diseases. In particular, nail tips tend to harbor enterobacteriaceae, a bacteria family that includes salmonella and E.Coli, which can be transported from the mouth to the intestines.
Your Nails and Skin Can Become Infected. And because the mouth itself is a bacteria hotbed, too much nail-biting exposes the tender skin beneath to a wealth of pathogens. Infected skin may get inflamed, red, and swollen, leading to chronic ingested nails and deformities. If you also chew the skin around the nail, including the cuticle, you are at a higher risk of developing paronychia – a painful infection that can result with the detachment of the nail.
Nails Grow Back Abnormally. On being bitten, your nails can lose their shape, giving them an unwanted look.
How To Stop Biting Nails
1. Keep Your Nails Short
One of the best ways to prevent nail biting is to cut your nails short and keep them smooth. You will eventually kick the habit if you don’t have anything to chew on. Just stay on top of the nail trimming regimen and keep them clipped every couple of days. To keep them smooth, run a nail file across all edges.
Get a nice manicure done. Manicures can make your hands look attractive as well as the nails. If you don’t want to ruin the manicure, you’ll be less likely to bite your nails. Also, you can apply a bitter-tasting nail polish to discourage yourself to put your fingers in your mouth. The horrific flavor will make you think twice before biting.
3. Keep A Check On The Triggers
Like any bad habit, your emotional state tends to trigger nail biting. Find out the cause. When you’re bored, do you bite your nails? Or is this just plain anxiety? Studies have shown that when bored, hungry, nervous, or stressed, people resort to nail biting. Identify your triggers so you can stop biting your nails and find a proper ways to deal with it. Every time you bite your nails, write down exactly what you were doing at the time, where you were, who you were with, what you thought about.
4. Keep Them Busy
Yes, the trick might be to keep your hands and mouth busy. Every time you are tempted to bite your nails, pick up a stress ball or chew gum.
5. Be Patient
It’s difficult to stop a long formed habit and it won’t happen overnight. It is a gradual process. Stop biting one fingernail at a time, start from your thumbnail, then one by one to the other fingers until you gradually stop biting all the nails.
If you are a chronic nail biter and this habit has started to damage your nails, it is recommended that you seek medical help to identify your condition’s underlying cause.