I have a friend who bites her nails constantly. Whether she’s out at the grocery store, we’re out for lunch, or she’s picking her daughter up from school in the morning – She’s chewing on her nails.
Most of the time, she doesn’t even realize she’s doing it (which, from what I understand, is pretty normal for a nail-biter), and she definitely doesn’t realize the danger that she could be putting herself in every time she sticks her fingers in her mouth. Don’t know what I’m talking about? If you bite your nails on a habitual (or even irregular) basis, you will want to keep reading.
Now, let’s see why nail biting is an issue and how you can try fixing it.
- ? Dangers of Nail Biting: Habitual nail biting can transfer disease-causing bacteria from the mouth to open sores on the fingers. Fingernails can house twice the dirt and bacteria compared to hands, increasing the risk of infections.
- ? Health Concerns: Chronic nail biting can result in conditions such as Paronychia, an infection around the nail area. Severe cases might require medical intervention. It also increases the risk of contracting HPV around nails, leading to warts.
- ? Dental Impact: Constant nail biting can result in dental issues. Over time, nail biters may incur higher dental bills, potentially causing teeth to shift, or accelerate the wear and tear, leading to the early need for dentures.
- ? Tips to Stop: Several strategies can help curb this habit, such as identifying triggers, engaging in activities that occupy the hands, getting manicures, applying deterrents on nails, and even considering behavioral therapy. In extreme cases, one could use electrical tape or band-aids to prevent biting.
- ?️ Community Engagement: The article encourages readers to share their own experiences with nail-biting and any effective solutions they’ve found.
Nail biting (in extreme cases) can be considered an OCD trait, but generally, it’s done out of boredom or when one’s going through a particularly stressful time. That’s why 45% of teenagers bite their nails, but by the time they’re (older) adults that number drops to about five percent.
If you fall into that five percent (or know someone who bites their nails), here are three reasons that are sure to convince you to at least try and stop:
Susceptibility to All Kinds Of Disease-Causing Bacteria
Bacteria love to live in small spaces; it’s where they thrive the most. And the underside of your nail tips is a perfect little place for them to move into and start having a party.
Did you know that your fingernails could be twice as dirty as your hands? It makes sense when you think about it – It’s easy to wash your hands, but it’s not easy to scrub under your fingernails (and just think about how many things you touch with your fingers – Yuck!). Not only are you transferring all of the nasty bacteria from your mouth to all the small tears in your fingers from gnawing on your nails, but those nails could become jagged and in turn, cut your gums; those cuts become a great place for all that nasty bacteria to enter your bloodstream and cause an infection or who knows what else.
If you’re a chronic nail biter who already has tiny cuts in your mouth (or any oral health problem at all, really), check out this article that we posted back in May. Any one of those items will get your mouth back in tip-top shape in no time at all.
More Than Just Your Nails
Sure, you might be embarrassed about how red and swollen (and possibly bloody, depending on how stressed you are) your fingers are after biting your nails for a while, but just imagine how you’d feel if they got infected. It’s very possible – Paronychia is an infection that’s caused whenever the skin in that area is damaged. It can also happen if you bite or clip off a hangnail or from pushing the cuticle back when getting a manicure, but it’s most likely to happen to someone that constantly bites their nails. In the best case scenario, the area around your nail is a little red and swollen, worst case, you need to go to the doctor and have him or her drain it and possibly remove part of your nail. A really bad infection could spread to your tendons, bones, and bloodstream.
If you think you might have a mild case, simply soaking the affected nail in hot sea salt water twice or thrice a day should help clear the infection out within a week.
You can also contract HPV on around your nails if you’re a chronic nail biter (the kind that causes warts on your hands and feet, not the sexually transmitted strain); continue chewing. You’ll start seeing the same warts on your lips and possibly in your mouth as you do on your nails before you know it.
Your Teeth Will Thank You For It.
Common sense tells us that constantly chewing will wear our teeth down, but that’s certainly not the first thing that a nail biter considers when they start chewing, is it? Consider this –
A nail-biter could potentially pay more than $4000 in dental bills than their non-biting counterparts. Biting can cause your teeth to shift (resulting in a crooked smile), which isn’t something cheap to fix. You could also end up wearing your teeth out much faster than they’re meant to be worn out, resulting in you needing dentures (possibly much) earlier than life intended.
If you’ve got a child that has braces that chew his or her nails (or if you have braces yourself), you’ll want to start paying more attention to how often they’re biting – Braces are already creating pressure In the mouth, the added stress of nail-biting could actually weaken the teeth’s roots.
How to Stop Nail Biting
So you know you have a problem, and you want to stop. But how? Here are a few tips that might help you out:
Learn Your Triggers
It might be handy to keep a journal for a couple of weeks, documenting all of the times you bit your nails. Once you know exactly what triggers you to start chewing, you’ll be better able to handle it. You’ll also train your body to be more aware of the action. Your brain’s a pretty brilliant organ, use it to your advantage. Feel free also to ask your friends and family to let you know if they catch you in the act.
Take Up A New Hobby
Take up scrapbooking or photography, start gardening, or take up knitting and/or crocheting (this is an especially handy skill to have if you have pregnant friends or don’t know what to give someone for Christmas – A handmade blanket/scarf/hat is always a hit) – Whatever you need to to keep your hands busy. If your hands are occupied, you won’t be able to chew them.
Get Your Nails Done
Remember that friend I told you about earlier? This is her trick – When she has a function to go to or if her fingers are getting to be particularly raw, she’ll give herself a manicure (I recommend using coconut oil in the process because of its antibacterial properties).
She finds she’s less likely to chew her nails when they look nice (which makes complete sense). GUYS: Don’t think that manicures are just a girl thing – If you’re a nail chewer and you think this might be the trick to help you get over it, just head to your local nail salon – Almost all of them will do male manicures. You just need to be cautious that you’re going to a reputable, clean place to avoid contracting a (further) infection.
Or Make Them Unappealing
You might have read somewhere before or heard someone say that putting hot sauce or vinegar on your fingertips (if you don’t like them) will deter you from chewing on them. That’s all well and good, but common sense tells me that those things will sting and irritate already infected nails (which is probably what you have if you’re resorting to putting things on them to stop you from chewing). Luckily, there are tons of odorless, non-irritation choices out there – You’ll be able to find exactly what you need either at your pharmacy, your local health food store, or online.
Consider Behavioral Therapy
If you’ve tried a bunch of different things to stop biting your nails, and nothing seems to be working, you might want to consider behavioral therapy to help you out. There are many different kinds of therapy to choose from (acupuncture, hypnosis, EFT, etc) – Check around, see what’s available in your area, make some phone calls, and then make an educated decision based on your individual criteria.
If all else fails (or if you don’t have the money for a manicure and bottle of tasting nail-biting deterrent), you could always just grab some electrical tape and slap it over your fingers.
Be wary of doing this if the area around your nails is bloody and irritated – If that’s the case, opt to use band-aids (with coconut oil on the gauze part if you have any) instead. Always remember not to wrap your fingers too tightly.
Nail biting is just as much an addiction as smoking, drinking, and gambling – No one expects you to be able to stop overnight. Hopefully, these tips can help you stop, or at the very least, have opened the door to your road to recovery.
If you know someone that’s a chronic nail-biter, do you try to stop them from doing it when you’re hanging out with them, or do you think it’s none of your business? If you’re a nail-biter yourself, have you tried other methods than the ones I’ve listed?