Some parents at our orthodontic practice ask if stopping a child’s nail biting habit is another positive effect of orthodontic treatment. Since nail biting can be harmful to braces by breaking brackets and bending wires that delays treatment, Dr. Rebecca H. Hohl DDS MS feels that finding ways to curtail the habit is in our patient’s best interest.
Here are a few facts about nail biting… technically called “Onychophagia”.
- About 30 percent of children aged 7-10 bite their nails
- About 45 percent of teenagers bite their nails
- About 25 percent of young adults bite their nails
- Only about five percent of older adults bite their nails
Nail biting is considered to be a stress induced habit that peaks during the teenage years and usually is overcome as an adult. Besides the fact it can damage braces during treatment if the habit persists, it can be harmful in different ways:
- Your fingers are pretty much involved in almost everything you do and they are a walking germ fest. Your fingernails are twice as dirty as your fingers. When you bite your nails… do you need to read more?
- If nail biting is severe and involves the cuticles and breaks the skin, the germs transfer from the mouth to the open wound and can cause infection.
- It is also a poor reflection on a person’s image. No one likes to watch a person bite their nails, especially a teenager or adult. Bitten nails are far from attractive in comparison to manicured nails, especially in the business world.
- Teeth are not meant to chew all the time. Nail biting tends to keep your teeth in constant motion, which can wear them down faster than a non-nail biter’s. It places stress on front teeth, can weaken them, and may contribute to the teeth becoming crooked or misaligned.
The good news is many orthodontic patients report that they are unable to continue their habit while wearing braces, which leads to breaking the habit. As your bite changes during treatment, their teeth no longer come together correctly. After a couple years of braces, patients usually lose the urge to bite their nails and generally overcome the problem.
Whether you have braces or starting orthodontic treatment, breaking the habit of nail biting is a good choice. It is healthier not to bite your nails and we suggest you keep them trimmed well during treatment. Contact our office to ask any questions or to schedule a complimentary exam.