Ask a thousand people for their thoughts on everyday dangers to oral health and chances are most will give you the same list of answers. Sugary foods, various acids, poor oral hygiene habits and so on. However, you may find that comparatively few single out what’s considered by doctors and dentists alike to be one of the worst habits for oral health and the rest of the body in general:
If you bite your nails, you’re certainly not in the minority. Research suggests that more than half of all younger adults bite their nails, though around 75% of cases disappear entirely by the age of 35. Nevertheless, it still amounts to millions of people who instinctively and habitually bite their nails, without even realising they’re doing it.
The Causes of Nail Biting
As for what it is that causes nail-biting in the first place, it’s a bit of a grey issue with no comprehensive answer. Of course, you are considerably more likely to bite your nails if you suffer from anxiety, depression or nervousness. Likewise, those who may be quitting smoking or going through other processes that take a toll on the body may also be more inclined to bite their nails.
That said, the largest majority of those who bite their nails – even the most chronic of cases – cannot necessarily be attributed to any specific cause. They bite their nails because they bite their nails – it really is as simple as that. And given the fact that there’s no specific cause, there’s also no silver-bullet cure to deal with the problem.
Reasons to Stop Biting Your Nails
As for why it’s important to make every effort to stop biting your nails, there are certain problems that can be caused by the habit which are best avoided at all costs, such as:
- Biting your nails can cause your nails to grow abnormally. Along with looking anything but attractive, nails damaged by excessive biting can also grow painfully into the skin and ultimately require surgical removal.
- Biting your nails is one of the best ways of chipping, cracking and breaking your teeth. Over time, nail biting can also lead to a wide variety of problems with your jaw.
- Biting your nails also has the potential to make you extremely ill. Given the fact that your hands are breeding grounds for the kinds of germs and bacteria you really should be keeping out of your body, sticking your fingers in your mouth on a regular basis simply is not the way to go.
Irrespective of the quality and consistency of your oral hygiene regime, you can still do a number on your teeth and health in general by biting your nails. Even the most outstanding dentist-recommended electric toothbrush and best-selling water flosser is no match for this kind of punishment.
Meaning that if you’ve become aware of the fact that you bite your nails, now really is the time to stop.
How to Stop Biting Your Nails
Just to clarify one important point straight away – quitting the habit once and for all isn’t easy. In fact, you may find it significantly more difficult than you expect and perhaps even fail in your first couple of attempts. Sooner or later however, you will make it stick and be free of the habit for life.
It’s all about taking a proactive course of action, in accordance with the following tips and guidelines provided by the experts:
- Keep your nails trimmed
First and foremost, you are naturally less likely to bite your nails if there is less nail available to bite in the first place. Meaning that if you keep your nails short and neat at all times, you will not feel the urge to bite. Just be sure to use quality trimming and grooming products, in order to avoid causing further damage to your nails.
- Use specialist nail polish
There are various over-the-counter nail products you can buy these days which are designed to make your fingernails taste as hideous as possible. They are completely safe and present no threat to your health whatsoever, but are nonetheless rather on the vile side. Hence, they can be a great way of slowly but surely training yourself not to bite your fingernails.
- Treat yourself
Even if you are something of a habitual nail-biter, chances are you don’t tend to shred your nails to pieces when you’ve just had an expensive manicure. The reason being that to do so would be to complete the waste your money. As such, a surprisingly effective way of getting out of the habit of biting your nails is to treat yourself to a series of manicures, keeping your nails in prime condition at all times.
- The bite-jar
You could also go for the tried and tested approach of setting up a bite jar – meaning that each and every time you or anyone else notices you are biting your nails, you have to put, for example, £1 into the jar. The proceeds of the jar ultimately going to someone else rather than yourself, or perhaps being donated to charity.
- Identify your triggers
It could very well be that there are certain things that make you more likely to bite your nails at any time of day or night. Certain experiences and situations during your working day, excessive consumption of coffee and so on and so forth. The idea being that if you can identify these triggers, you can focus more effort on either avoiding them or dealing with them as necessary.
- Stick with it!
Last but not least, if you really want to do your oral health perhaps the biggest favour of all, it’s important to stick to your guns. As mentioned earlier, it’s unlikely you’ll make the decision to quit biting your nails today and never bite them again. During the first few days and weeks in particular, you’ll constantly have to remind yourself each time you begin reaching for your mouth. Still, just as long as you stick with it for long enough, you will soon get out of the habit.