What Is Onychophagia?


What is: 
  1. unattractive 
  2. annoying...AND
  3. damaging to your teeth?

Here's a brief video to help you pronounce it:

Onychophagia is simply defined as nail biting.

So, why do it?

More importantly, how do you stop it?

A (really) Bad Habit

Over 20% of the world's population are compulsive nail biters. That means one out of five people are affected by this disorder.

Typically, nail biting is triggered by stress, excitement, or even boredom. It can also be a learned behavior from family members. Nail biting is the most common of the typical “nervous habits,” along with thumb sucking, hair pulling or twisting.

Fingernails are a vacation home of bacteria and germs. Your nails are nearly twice as dirty as your fingertips. Biting them just invites illnesses and numerous other health problems.

Nail biting can also cause damage to the gums.

Chewed-off nails are often swallowed and may become lodged between teeth. This can allow additional germs and infections to set in (gingivitis, anyone?).

"Germopolis" (for illustration purposes only...)
Gastrointestinal issues may develop. Most surfaces your hands come in contact with are literal metropolises for germ activity.

Another Reason To Stop

Nail biting puts a significant amount of stress on your front teeth. This can then contribute to malocclusion of the anterior teeth. Additionally, long term nail biting can actually cause the enamel on your teeth to wear down.  

By the way, are you receiving orthodontic treatment? Dentists traditionally install braces to help straighten out crooked or misaligned teeth. Braces are made to gradually shift your teeth into a desired formation that makes them more visually appealing.

In general, braces put pressure on your teeth to straighten them. Since the braces are shifting your teeth, it's very important to make sure you're not putting any unnecessary stress on them. Nail biting only further stresses your teeth and weakens your roots.

Nailing Your Finances

Do you like throwing your money away? If so, I have some beachfront property in the middle of The Sahara Desert I'd like to sell you...

Seriously though, nail biting can be extremely costly. Most orthodontic professionals agree that you can easily rack up dental bills totaling over $3500.00 in a very short period of time! Imagine what you can do with that kind of money.....

What can you do about it?

Now that you know how harmful and costly nail biting can be, it’s time to take action to break your nail biting habit.
An Easily Broken Habit

Try to be conscious of your fingernails and to keep them looking good. Here's a few tips that can help you resist the temptation.

  • Apply clear, bitter-tasting nail polish to the nails. The bitter flavor discourages nail biting.
  • Mouth guards can help prevent nail biting.
  • If all else fails, experts suggest thinking about when and why you chew your nails.
  • Understanding the triggers can help you find a solution and stop the habit. Some nail biters have even found behavioral therapy an effective means to stop nail biting.

There is some good news however, many experts say that you'll more than likely kick the habit by your 35th birthday.

But for everybody else: 

Here are a couple of highly recommended resources to help you or someone you know stop onychophagia once and for all.

Leave a comment below.

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