Charlotte, NC (PRWEB) November 26, 2012 -- Nail biting is a common problem in the United States, most commonly affecting children and teens. Most teens outgrow the habit before reaching adulthood. But for those who do not, nail biting can lead to oral health problems, according to James A. Wells, DDS, of South Charlotte Dentistry (www.southcharlottedentistry.com).
Adult nail biting is most often a symptom of anxiety or stress. As the economy has changed and more cases of anxiety are reported, dentists and medical professionals are seeing greater numbers of people with nervous symptoms like nail biting. A study, published in the Journal of Applied Psychology in the June 2012 issue, reports stress levels and their associated symptoms increased between 10% and 30% over all demographic categories.
Dr. Wells is seeing greater numbers of patients that he believes have nail biting habits that have resulted in dental issues. “Nail biting causes many kinds of physical problems, but I like to alert my patients about the serious dental implications of nail biting,” he says. One of the physical issues is cut or damaged gums, which are injured by sharp, jagged nails. They create wounds and sores on the gums, which can easily become infected from bacteria that exist in the mouth.
Nail biting may also lead to malocclusion or simply improperly angled, misaligned teeth. Nail biting cause patients to align their teeth incorrectly in order to properly bite the nail, which then leads to the jaw growing into permanent misalignment. Malocclusion can be a cosmetic and health problem.
The most common, and unfortunately also the most severe, dental consequence of nail biting is the development of bruxism. Bruxism is the unintentional grinding or clenching of teeth that may cause dental injury or facial pain. Many nail biters report the same symptoms of facial pain that are commonly associated with bruxism. Others go on to develop extremely painful symptoms such as tension headaches, muscle tension in the face, jaw pain, and sensitive teeth.
Nail biting can also cause another symptom of bruxism, which is the erosion of the tooth and tooth enamel. As a patient grinds teeth into the nail of the finger, the tooth becomes more susceptible to chipping and can easily wear down. In some cases, the nail biting or bruxism can result in receding gums.
Even when the nail biting does not present the same dangers as bruxism, nail biting can lead to the development of bruxism. Patients who are nail biters report that after biting their nails for many years and never having any issues with jaw clenching, they suddenly notice themselves clenching and grinding their teeth at night.