Some Serious Health Risks Associated with Nail Biting

Nail Biting

From your childhood you are told not to bite your nails. 

Nail biting or onychophagia is one nasty habit you may be doing voluntarily or involuntarily right from your childhood days and continuing even in adult years. It is very common disorder in which you usually bite or chew your fingernails on getting anxious, bored, depressed, or stressed. 

Other probable reasons behind nail biting are psychiatric disorders, mental retardation, brain diseases, drug use (cocaine and amphetamines particularly), and sensory deprivation (such as deafness or blindness). 

Short fingernails are very obvious sign of nail biting. According to website Fabhow there are some other symptoms as well that indicates you are into nail biting such as nail fungus, oral herpes, a nail infection affecting the soft tissues surrounding your nails known as paronychia, lesions on fingers or thumb caused by herpes simplex virus (Herpetic whitlos), apical root resorption, damaged dentition, gingivitis, warts around your nail bed and fractures or cracks to incisors.
The best thing is that you can get rid of this problem by your own will power. But you need to convince your brain first how this habit could be harmful for you.
Here is how nail biting could prove harmful and dangerous to your health:


1. Can Cause Mouth Infections

It is more likely you won’t wash your nails before biting. If it is so, there is high possibility that infection causing bacteria and harmful microbes can get inside your mouth. It can cause acute or chronic mouth, lips and gum infections. These infectious microbes can cause many skin infections too. Thus, you see how harmful nail biting could be for your mouth.

2. Threat of Warts 

If you are a chronic nail biter, you may have warts (growth of skin) on your fingers caused by HPV (Human papillomavirus). 

According to The Primary Care Dermatological Society a damaged epithelial barrier increases the risk of periungual warts in people who bite their finger nails.

3. Can Cause Paronychia or Fingertip Infection

When you bite your nails for a long period, you can suffer from an infection called paronychia. In this infection, the tears or abrasions occurring in the skin of your fingertips allows yeast or bacteria to get inside and cause swelling, redness or buildup of puss near nails. The bacterial infection makes the nails tender and painful.

4. Can make you Suffer from Orthodontic Problems

Your teeth need a break between meals but nail biting means they are being used by you all day. And, since nails are hard so nail biting can wear down your teeth and enamel causing uneven biting surfaces. This continuous stress on your front teeth can crack, break or misalign it. 
Anxiety in a stressed situation is a normal reaction but when anxiety takes over, it can put you into behaviors like nail biting. 
A recent study published in The Journal of Oral Rehabilitation suggests that anxiety in social circumstances can increase the risk of bruxism – the teeth clenching or grinding habit which causes teeth wear, fracture and jaw pain.

4. Can Cause Nail Infections

Nail biting can weaken you nails and nail beds. Besides this, chewing nails can lead to redness, swelling, and pus around your nails.
According to American Academy of Dermatology nail biting persistently may allow bacteria, yeast and fungi to enter the small cracks and lesions to cause various nail infections. 
Although some of these infections are easy to manage, others like nail fungal infections can irritate you for a long time.

Stomach pain

5. May Lead to Diarrhea and Abdominal Pain

Your nails are home to many types of germs. You never know but a family of bacteria called enterobacteriaceae, including salmonella and E. coli could be living beneath the tips of your nails. When you bite your nails these harmful bacteria may enter your gut through mouth causing gastro-intestinal infections that leads to abdominal pain and diarrhea. Nail biting with improper hygiene can also cause worms in stomach (commonly pinworms).

6. Affects Quality of Life Adversely

Nail biting can impair the quality of your life. The quality of life may diminish with an increased time you spend on biting your nails and the number of fingernails you chew. The tension you take when trying to resist nail biting and suffering caused by nail-eating habit also negatively influence the quality of your life.
A 2014 study published in The Journal of Acta Dermato-Venereologica suggests that nail biting has an association with impairment of quality of life, as those with onychophagia(nail-biting) demonstrated significantly higher QoL impairment  and stigmatization level than those without nail-biting problem.

7. Can Cause Oral Herpes

It’s rare, but nail biting can cause oral herpes with symptoms such as redness, tenderness, and blisters in the affected area.

Herpes Simplex virus carriers can easily get infected with Herpes Whitlow infection of the fingers due to transference of viruses.  So if you have oral cold sores or genital outbreaks, refrain from biting nails, avoid touching active Herpes lesions and wash hands immediately on contact to avoid this disease.

8. May Cause Gingivitis 

Nail biting can cause gingivitis which is characterized by swollen, soft, receding gums that bleed easily when you brush or floss. It can also make you suffer from bad breathe.
A 2000 study published in The Journal of Periodontology suggests that out of many other causes, habitual fingernail biting or onychophagia is the most common cause of self-inflicted gingivitis.

9. Can Lead to Loss of Nails

Nail biting can damage your nail beds overtime. It can lead to irreversible shortening of nails. And, the social stigma and embarrassment over the look of your nails may make you feel sad, isolated, or depressed.

10. Inability to Use your Hands for Regular Works

It is very obvious as when you’ll always put your hand in the mouth, it would be difficult for you to do tasks properly. And, when the habit becomes chronic it may prevent you from doing even regular and ordinary tasks. 
Further here is a video that shows how you can strengthen weak and brittle nails at home

Thank you to Dan for this Guest post! I have certainly learned a lot and I won't be biting my nails again! Let me know in the comments if this is something you struggle with! 

Some Serious Health Risks Associated with Nail Biting

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