Take a Bite out of Your Bad Nail Biting Habit

3 fingernails that have been chewed on


Nail biting is one of those childhood habits that can be tough to kick. Like thumb sucking, the sooner this habit gets shown to the door, the better. Nail biting can have some real consequences for your oral health.


What’s Wrong with Nail Biting?

Cold, Flu, or Warts with That Nail?

Your hands are exposed to bacteria every day. All it takes is a quick look at the thick skin on your finger-pads and palms to see the protection your body has built into them. Your hands were designed to keep bacteria on the outside of the body. Nail biting can introduce harmful bacteria and viruses from your hands into your mouth, which can lead to illnesses like cold and flu, infections of the cuticles from the oral bacteria, and infections of the mouth from bacteria or viruses on the hands and under the nails. Keep in mind that warts can spread from the fingers to the mouth and to other areas of the body. The virus that causes warts can also cause oral cancers.


male lips with untrimmed beard at closeup.Close up of male part of face. man bites his nails. Bad habit.


Tooth Damage

Your nails are hard, and your front teeth are not designed to gnaw. They are designed to bite and tear. Constant biting on hard objects cause stress of the enamel which can lead to

  • Crazing
  • Wear
  • Chipping
  • Misalignment


The worst time to bite nails is when your teeth are in braces. Think about what braces do–they move teeth through bone.That takes force. The forces that are applied to the teeth by your orthodontist are very well-measured and are applied slowly, but your teeth are vulnerable during this period. The added force of nail biting can actually permanently damage the roots of your teeth.


girl nail-biting while she looks at her cell phone


How Can I Quit Biting My Nails?

Old habits are hard to break–it’s true, but there are some tips and tricks to help!


  • No bite nail polish. There are plenty of products on the market like Hoof Hands and Mavala to help.
  • Pay attention to your triggers. Notice that you chew your nails in front of the TV? Keep some hand-busying projects near your seat to keep your hands occupied. Take up knitting or keep a bowl of nuts and a cracker handy.
  • Keep your nails short and smooth. You will be less tempted to bite nails with flawless edges. Keep your cuticles healthy.
  • Find ways to manage your stress. Nail biting is often a stress reliever. Replacing damaging habits with healthy ones is a strategy for success. Feel like biting your nails? Give yourself a quick hand massage, or take a break and do some breathing exercises. You can also try chewing gum or mints to keep your mouth busy.


Remember, your oral health is our primary concern. Talk to your dentist or dental hygienist about your nail biting and let them help you come up with the best strategies for you!