Nail biting or onychophagia, is a relatively common habit that affects people of all ages. There are many theories as to why people bite or chew their nails, but most agree that it often comes from stress or a bad habit picked up as a child. Nail biting is actually more detrimental to a person’s health much more than we think due to the following reasons:
• DISEASE CAUSING BACTERIA: Nails are an ideal location for bacteria to thrive, and that includes potentially pathogenic bacteria like Salmonella and E.coli. As you bite your nails, those bacteria easily transfer into your mouth and the rest of the body, where they may lead to infections. Your fingernails may actually be twice as dirty as your fingers, considering they are difficult to keep clean, making this a prime point of transfer for infectious organisms.
• NAIL INFECTIONS: Nail biters are susceptible to paronychia, a skin infection that occurs around your nails. As you chew your nails, bacteria, yeast and other microorganisms can enter through tiny tears or abrasions, leading to swelling, redness, and pus around the nail. Treatment for this condition is surgical draining. Bacterial infections caused by nail biting are actually one of the most common nail problems.
• WARTS DUE TO HPV INFECTIONS: Warts on your fingers caused by Human papillomavirus, or HPV, are common among chronic nail biters. These warts can easily spread to your mouth and lips as you bite your nails.
• DENTAL PROBLEMS: Nail biting can interfere with proper dental occlusion, or the manner in which the upper and lower teeth come together when you close your mouth. Your teeth may shift out of its proper position, wear down prematurely, and become weakened if you bite your nails over time
• IMPAIRED QUALITY OF LIFE: People who are chronic nail biters have a higher level of life impairment than those who don’t. The level of impairment rises with time spent on nail biting, and the number of involved finger nails. Tension when trying to resist nail biting or nail-eating behaviour also negatively influences the quality of life.