Nail biting is a tacky but popular habit. Nearly one-third of Americans, ages 4 to 30, bite their nails in private, public or both.
But embarrassment might be the least of their problems. Nail biting is associated with a host of dental problems.
Nail biters are more likely than non-biters to have swollen and infected gums. Nail biting can also lead to tooth wear, tiny fractures, loss of the tooth root and the spread of skin infection from hand to mouth.
A worst-case scenario, recently reported in dental literature by Ohio dentist Curtis Creath: A 9-year-old boy with an entrenched nail-biting habit was taken to the dentist to evaluate swollen gums. His dentist discovered a bit of fingernail embedded in the gum, leading to the inflammation.
If a piece of fingernail works its way down to the tooth root, loss of the tooth could result.
* Sources: American Dental Assn., Journal of the American Dental Assn., Dr. Curtis Creath.