Does biting your nails chip your teeth?

You would think, as a dentist, the only thing I am interested in examining is your teeth. 

But on many occasions when a patient comes for a consult, especially a cosmetic consult, the first thing I do is look at their fingernails.

Why you might ask?

Because nail biting can chip teeth and the beauty of a smile is often dependent on the teeth looking balanced. Small chips can ruin that balance pretty quickly.

Nail biting is very common and affects all ages and gender. It has a couple of medical names: onychophagy and onychophagia.

Sometimes it’s short-term and related to the stress in your life. For others it becomes a compulsive, automatic habit and you end up biting your nails without even realising. It’s often put down to long-term stress, boredom, anxiety or even hunger. There has been some suggestion that the habit can be genetic, but this hasn’t been fully proven yet.

So what happens to the teeth?

The front teeth, top and bottom are the biggest casualties. It’s usually little chips, mostly involving just the enamel of the teeth. The chips don’t normally cause pain, but they can be sharp on the tongue and lips and they affect the smile line.

How can you break the habit? Here’s a few tips from

  1. Cut your nails short
  2. Place an undesirable flavour onto the nails
  3. Address some of the risk factors like stress, hunger, boredom
  4. Beautiful manicures
  5. Occupy your hands and energy with something else eg stress ball
  6. Gloves

The good news is the small chips can be repaired with white fillings; colour matched and shaped to restore your gorgeous smile. If the chips are large or keep reoccurring then something stronger like a veneer or crown, made out of porcelain, may be needed.

But here’s the bad news; the chips can come back and the fillings can fail pretty quickly if the nail biting habit continues. Stressful for you and your dentist who keeps repairing them.

So next time you catch yourself biting your nails or using your beautiful front teeth to open something they shouldn’t. Stop, think……. and give those poor teeth a rest.

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