If your child chews on their nails, they are far from the only one. According to C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Michigan, it is estimated that nearly 50% of children between the ages of 10 and 18 bite their nails. Commonly practiced unintentionally when bored or needing comfort, this little habit can have some unpleasant effects for children. For instance it can permanently impact the appearance of their nails and hands, potentially leading to embarrassment. However, did you know that nail-biting can also harm a child’s oral health? Keep reading to learn why it’s best to curb this bad habit before it causes serious damage to their teeth and gums.
Nail-Biting and Your Child’s Smile: What You Need to Know
When determining how just damaging nail-biting can be, it’s important to remember that the outer layer of your child’s teeth, the enamel, is designed to protect. Known for its strength and durability, it is unfortunately not indestructible and can be worn down over time. While regular wear and tear are normal, aggressive nail-biting can speed up the process, causing significant problems to develop, including:
- Weakened, sensitive teeth because of worn down tooth enamel
- The introduction of harmful bacteria infecting your child’s gum tissue
- Cracked, broken, or chipped teeth because of additional pressure applied when biting their nails
- Loss of baby teeth early on, which can impact the eruption of permanent teeth
- Teeth grinding (bruxism) while asleep
- Misalignment of your child’s teeth and bite once their permanent teeth erupt
Ways to Help Your Child Stop Biting Their Nails
Helping your child break any bad habit is never easy. Naturally, this common practice may be difficult for them to give up; however, by working closely with your child’s pediatric dentist and remaining consistent in your efforts, you can better safeguard their smile.
Some helpful tips to consider when it comes to stopping the practice of nail-biting include:
- Keeping your child’s fingernails cut short. This will reduce the chances of them chewing on their nails throughout the day because there will be little area to bite.
- Identifying what might be triggering them to bite their nails. Whether they do it as a comfort mechanism or out of boredom, try to pinpoint the problem and look for solutions to mitigate it.
- Distracting them with other activities. Should you notice your child beginning to bite their nails, immediately distract them with a toy or activity that will keep their hands busy and out of their mouth.
- Trying nail polish. If your child enjoys having their fingernails painted, let them pick out their favorite color and give them a mini manicure. Not only will this keep them happy because of their new nail color, but it will also keep them from biting their fingernails because of the displeasing taste of the polish.
Nail-biting, much like pacifiers or sucking on their thumb, is habit that can be overcome with patience, consistency, and perhaps some professional guidance. Talk to their pediatric dentist today to help your child develop healthier habits and enjoy a strong, beautiful smile for life.
About the Author
Dr. J. Patrick Bowman earned his Doctor of Dental Medicine degree at the University of Kentucky before going on to earn a master’s degree in Biomedical Sciences and complete a two-year advanced training program in pediatric dentistry at the University of Toledo Medical Center. As a board-certified pediatric dentist in Denver, he and his team at Wash Park Pediatric Dentistry are happy to help parents mitigate potential oral health problems by providing tips and techniques to safeguard their children’s smiles. Whether it is thumb-sucking, nail-biting, or pacifier use, Dr. Patrick and his team are here to help with compassion and without judgment. Contact us at (720) 647-6310 or visit our website today.