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Nail Biting 101

Also known as onchophagia, the nail biting is a nervous habit that can have serious consequences. Stress, excitement, or boredom can trigger it, and approximately half of kids between ten and 18 have been nail biters at one time or another. According to experts, 30% of children and 15% of adults are nail biters, but most stop by the time they turn 30.

Here are four reasons to put a stop to the habit:

  1. It’s unsanitary: Fingernails harbor bacteria and germs, and are almost twice as dirty as your fingers. And swallowing dirty nails can lead to stomach issues.
  2. It wears down your teeth: The added stress of biting nails can lead to crooked teeth.
  3. It can delay your orthodontic treatment: For those who wear braces, nail biting puts additional pressure on teeth and weakens roots.
  4. You’ll literally pay for it eventually: It has been estimated that up to $4K in extra treatment can build up over a lifetime.

Our team recommends the following to kick your nail biting habit:

  • Trim your nails often; short nails leave you nothing to bite. .
  • A bitter-tasting nail polish will deter biting. .
  • Consider using a mouthguard to discourage nail biting. .
  • Try operant conditioning. Snapping a rubber band on your wrist when you bite your nails will associate the action with pain, eventually dissuading you from biting your nails. .
  • Be cognizant of when you are biting your nails, and try to understand what is triggering the action. .

If you’re having trouble, please ask your orthodontist for recommendations.

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