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Onychphagia, the clinical term for nail biting, affects 45 percent of adolescents. Biting your nails may cause temporary damage and discomfort to your nail beds, but it will cause permanent damage to your teeth.

If you’re a nail-biter, your fingernails are constantly being shoved into the crevices between your teeth. Over time, your teeth can shift out of alignment, resulting in the need for braces. On average, braces take one to four years to realign your teeth and make nail biting even more painful.

Another reason nail biting is destructive is because the keratin (the protective protein of your nails, also found in animal hooves and horns) will strip the enamel from your teeth. The loss of enamel exposes the soft tissue in your teeth to bacteria and tooth decay. Also, the constant pressure and prodding of keratin could crack an entire tooth. Cracked teeth require dental fillings and possibly tooth surgery. If the crack is severe enough, your tooth may need to be removed.

If you have a bad habit of biting your nails, be sure to visit Dr. Thomas E. Wold at least every six months to ensure your teeth aren’t suffering any permanent damage. You should also inquire about solutions to your nail-biting habit, such as chewing sugarless gum instead.

Breaking a bad habit isn’t easy, but neither are the consequences of nail biting. For more information on protecting your teeth from a nail biting habit, contact Dr Thomas E. WOLD Dentistry at 541.389.1301. Dr. Thomas E. Wold will gladly meet with you at our facility in Bend, Oregon to answer your questions.