Damages Chronic Nail Biting can Cause

By:Vasudha Bhat, Onlymyhealth Editorial Team,Date:Dec 26, 2014

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Having beautiful nails can add to the aesthetic value of your hands. But, if you are a chronic nail biter, not only your hands will pay the price there would also be many other health hazards that can follow.
  • 1

    What is Onychophagia?

    Nail biting, which is also known as onychophagia, is a common habit that affects people of all ages and gender. There are many beliefs behind this habit. While some believe that the habit is a result of stress, some believe that it is an activity picked up as a child. There are some estimates that suggest that 30 percent of children, 45 percent of teenagers, 25 percent of young adults and 5 percent of older adults are into the habit of biting nails. The most common and obvious consequence of nail biting is that your hands can lose their aesthetic value. However, there are some more damages that this habit can cause. Here are some of them listed for you.

    Image courtesy: Getty Images

  • 2

    Transfer of Bacteria from Nails to Mouth

    Nails give bacteria an ideal environment to grow especially to the pathogenic bacteria like Salmonella and E. coli. When you bite your nails, these bacteria enter your mouth and get easily transferred into your body causing infections. The fingernails are difficult to clean thus, it makes them twice as dirty as the fingers. Their unhygienic conditions make the nails a prime point of transfer for infectious organisms.

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  • 3

    Infections in Nail

    People who bite nails are at a much higher risk of suffering from paronychia, which is a skin infection that occurs around the nails. When you chew your nails, bacteria, yeast and other microorganisms can enter through small tears or abrasions causing swelling, redness and pus around the nails. A surgical procedure may be needed to treat the condition. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, bacterial infection caused by nail-biting is one of the most common nail problems.

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  • 4

    Warts

    People who are chronic nail biters are vulnerable to developing warts on their fingers caused by human papillomavirus or HPV. These HPV are the ones that cause warts on the hands and not the ones that lead to genital warts and cervical cancer. Once warts develop on your hands, they can easily spread to your mouth and lips whenever you bite your nails.

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  • 5

    Dental Problems

    Chronic nail biters may have an interfered dental occlusion, which means that there may be a problem in the manner in which the upper and lower teeth come together when the mouth is closed. If you bite your nails often, there are very high chances of your teeth shifting from their original position, become out of shape, wear down before time and become weakened. According to estimates by Academy of General Dentistry, frequent nail biters may have additional dental bills of $4,000 over the course of their lifetime.

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  • 6

    Decreased Quality of Life

    A study showed that people who chronically bite their nails have reported a significantly reduced quality of life than those who do not. The level of impairment increases with the time spent on nail biting, the number of fingernails involved and those who report visible nail abnormalities. There were some other factors like tension caused by resistance to nail biting, suffering due to nail-biting or nail-eating behaviour that can have negative effects on the quality of life.

    Image courtesy: Getty Images

  • 7

    This will Help you

    If these dangers have given you jitters and you have finally made up your mind to skip the habit, here are few helping tips for you. To quit the habit, start maintaining a journal which contains the triggers of your nail biting habit. These can include boredom or even watching TV. Once you know these triggers start looking for ways to avoid them completely.

    Image courtesy: Getty Images

  • 8

    Wrap your Fingers

    If you fear that sometimes you would unknowingly start biting your nails, you can keep them wrapped with band-aids or electrical tape. You could also take help from activities that would keep your hands busy, like knitting. Have your nails trimmed and manicured very frequently and apply an unpleasant tasting substance on your fingertips like vinegar or hot sauce. If all these tips do not work for you, consider having behavioural therapy such as habit reversal training.

    Image courtesy: Getty Images

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