Does Biting Your Nails Damage Your Teeth?

A surprised man and woman with their hands over their mouths

Nail-biting is a habit many people develop at some point in their life. Whether they do it to shorten their nails, are anxious, or just bored, it can often be a habit that’s hard to break. It might even seem harmless.

However, biting your nails can affect more than just the appearance of your nails. Dentists such as Dr. Brian Klym in Petosky, MI have found that it can also lead to tooth damage that may be expensive to fix.

Reasons Behind Nail-biting

Many people who bite their nails don’t even realize they’re doing it at times because it’s often a coping mechanism. It falls into the category of tapping your foot, biting a pencil, or fidgeting with something when you’re anxious.

While nail-biting is something people frequently do when they’re bored, other times it can be the sign of a deeper internal problem. It can occur when you’re nervous about an upcoming event or you’re stressed because of the situation at hand.

Additionally, nail-biting can be a side effect of more serious problems such as anxiety, ADHD, or other mental health issues. Once this habit is formed, it can lead to damaging effects on your body and mind.

How Nail-biting Affects Your Teeth

Our teeth are strong objects that aid in breaking down food, making it easier to swallow and digest. However, they’re also vulnerable and can be easily damaged by hard objects.

If you’ve ever been told not to chew on ice because of the effect it has on your teeth, then you should know that biting your nails can be just as damaging, or even more destructive, due to their hard texture. Hopefully, knowing the effects will be enough to get you to break this addicting habit.

Cracked or Chipped Teeth

Your fingernails have a similar depth and hardness as your teeth, so your teeth have to work harder to bite through them. Just like ice or hard candy, the density of your nails is often too much for your teeth to handle, causing them to break.


Nail-biting can lead to a damaging habit known as bruxism. This is also known as teeth grinding and it causes harm to your teeth as well as your jawbone.

When you chew on your nails, your teeth slowly begin to wear down, leading them to become uneven. This can also cause your jaw to overcompensate and become unbalanced.

Biting your nails is sometimes a sign of anxiety, and people who bite their nails are more likely to develop bruxism due to their mental condition.

Damaged Gum Tissue

Unlike using nail clippers or filing them, biting your nails leaves the edges uneven and jagged. These hard, sharp edges can cut through your gums and damage their tissue as well.

Your fingernails contain a large number of bacteria, so they can damage your gums in addition to causing them to become infected. According to Dr. Andrew Spector in Haworth, NJ, gum disease can spread easily, infecting multiple parts of your mouth.

Breaking the Habit

The best way to protect your teeth and gums from the damaging effects of nail-biting is to learn how to stop. For some people, knowing the effects is enough to get them to quit. Other people, however, develop the habit as a way to manage their stress or a mental health disorder and they may require additional help. Here are some useful strategies:

A woman holding up her painted fingernails by her mouth

Maintain Your Nails Regularly

Making a conscious effort of cutting your nails short when they start to grow out can help you stop biting them because there will be nothing there to bite off.

Getting a manicure or painting your nails can also help you break the habit because you’ll like how they look. In addition, eating the polish off your nails most likely won’t taste good, causing you to stop putting your nails in your mouth.

Discover Your Triggers

If nail-biting is the result of how you cope when you’re bored or stressed, seek out stress management resources to learn new ways to deal with these difficult situations.

Since mental health problems such as anxiety or ADHD can also cause this habit, seeing a doctor or therapist may help. They can diagnose your condition and help you determine the best way to treat it.

Keep Your Hands Busy

Have you found that you’re someone who needs to keep their hands busy at all times? One of the first things people fidget with is their nails. They either pick at them or bite them. Finding an alternative way to keep your hands active may eliminate your urge to bite your nails. Try purchasing one of these objects so your hands have something to fidget with:

  • Stress ball
  • Fidget spinner
  • Clickable pens
  • Rubik’s cube

Fixing Your Teeth

A smiling woman with curly hair

If you’ve noticed damage to your teeth or gums as a result of nail-biting, an experienced dentist such as Dr. John Oetting can fix them using a variety of treatments.

Porcelain Veneers

If your teeth have been cracked, chipped, or worn down, porcelain veneers may be a good option for you. These thin shells are custom-made to match the shade and shape of your teeth and erase the damage.

Dental Crowns

Once your tooth becomes severely broken, it may need to be completely covered with a toothlike cap known as a crown. It’s made to look exactly like your natural tooth and used to strengthen and protect it from future damage.

Periodontal Care

Your gums may become infected due to the bacteria that gets trapped under your nails. If you develop gum disease from biting your nails, your dentist can use a variety of periodontal treatments to restore them.