It may seem like an innocent habit, but nail biting is something that 30 percent of kids from 7 to 10 years old and 45 percent of teenagers do. Even adults do it, with an estimated 5 percent biting their nails. Medically known as onychophagy or onychophagia, nail biting is considered an oral compulsive habit. It is one of the many different tics or habits that are caused by anxiety. There are some people, though, who only do it out of stress or boredom. Nevertheless, whether you’re addicted to this habit or not, you need to realize that it is not just gross, but is also downright dangerous. Below are just some of the things that will happen to your body if you continue biting your nails.
5 Ways to Stop Biting Your Nails
Your Body Will Be a Breeding Ground for Bacteria
This is quite obvious, considering that bacteria and germs get to our body through the things we touch with our hands. Bacteria such as E. coli and Salmonella simply love thriving in hard-to-reach areas such as the underside of the tips of your nails. You’re pretty much safe as long as you don’t put your hands near your mouth, but as you bite your fingernails, those things can easily get into your mouth and then to the rest of your body, leading to potential infection. While some would claim that biting your nails could increase your immune system by introducing pathogens to your body and help it learn to build defenses, you wouldn’t really want any of those infectious organisms to get into your system through your fingernails.
You Will Develop Nail Infection
People who bite their nails have a higher chance of acquiring paronychia, or skin infection around the nails. Every time you chew on your nails, you are actually causing tiny abrasions or tears around your nail area. These tears can be used as entry points of yeast, bacteria, and other harmful microorganisms to your skin, causing the skin around your nails to swell and develop pus. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, paronychia is one of the most rampant nail problems. Sometimes, the infection caused by this condition can be so painful and can worsen to a point that the pus would need to be surgically drained.
Your Teeth May Shift Out Of Position
You may think that this one’s a bit far-fetched, but it can actually happen if you keep biting your nails. It can interfere with the relationship of your upper and your lower teeth when you close your mouth, also referred to as dental occlusion. Over time, your teeth may shift out of position. They may even prematurely wear down, become misshapen, and weaken. According to studies, those who have a habit of biting their nails can spend an average of $4,000 in dental bills throughout their lifetime.
You Will Be Susceptible to Wart-Causing HPV
Nail biters should beware of warts, or sometimes even worse. Warts on the hands, especially on the fingers, which are caused by HPV or human papillomavirus, are very common among individuals who bite their nails all the time. This type of HPV is, of course, not the same as the ones that can cause genital warts, but they can easily spread to other parts of the body, especially the mouth and lips. And believe it or not, there are no parts of the body that can do a better job of spreading HPV than the mouth and lips. What makes this worse is that there are certain strains of HPV that can actually cause cancer, which means nail-biting can increase your risk of growing cancer cells right at the tip of your fingers.
You Will Soon Suffer From Disgusting Breath
You May End Up Poisoning Yourself
It’s unlikely that you will die chewing your fingernails off, but you can actually ingest some harmful stuff such as formaldehyde by doing so. This is especially for female nail biters. Many brands of nail polish contain formaldehyde, the same stuff used for preserving dead bodies. There may be some upside to wearing nail varnish, as a study done in Yale found that students who wear them have the least amount of germs and bacteria growing underneath their nails. However, you really wouldn’t want to chew on your polished nails as it contains something that’s potent enough to kill E. coli and other similar bugs.
If You Have Braces, You Will Need To Wear Them For A Longer Time
Grinding Your Teeth At Night Will Be A Regular Thing For You
This may not be a direct result of nail biting, but since the habit can be a nervous reaction, you will be more likely to also grind your teeth at night if you chew up your fingers regularly. People who grind their teeth when asleep are often stressed, and so are those who have a habit of biting their nails. Also, as mentioned earlier, nail biting can weaken the teeth, and if doubled with teeth grinding, can inflict a lot of damage to your pearly whites, even causing them to eventually fall out!
Quality Life Impairment May Become a Problem For You
Studies show that people who bite their nails chronically have a higher risk of impairing the quality of their life. Not only can the activity cause embarrassment, but the results it delivers can also cause the nail biter to develop shame. Who wouldn’t be ashamed if they had bad breath, misaligned or broken teeth, and fingers full of pus at the same time as a result of nail biting?
Your Nails May Possibly Never Grow Back
Most nail-biters only bite the tip of their nails, but if you are a chronic nail biter, you have a higher chance of damaging your nail bed. When exposed, the nail bed can be severely damaged and even turn into skin. When this happens as a result of biting your nail repeatedly, your nail may no longer be able to attach to the damaged nail bed. From this point, there won’t be anything you can do to reverse the damage and your nails may remain as stumps for the rest of your life.
Nail biting is considered a form of obsessive-compulsive behavior or OCD. The good news is that it actually slows down and declines with age. If you’re suffering from this behavior or know someone who does, it’s not too late. There are a number of self-help methods that can help you quit the habit gradually, although that’s already a different topic altogether.