Nail Biting: Break the Habit Before You Break Your Braces

When you have your braces fitted, your orthodontist will give you a long list of instructions on how to care for them.  As you might expect, this includes information on how to maintain and clean your braces and how to change some of your eating habits to avoid food that may damage your braces. This may not be the only habit your orthodontist mentions, however. If you bite your nails, you may be told to stop.

Why Is Biting Your Nails Bad?

Your orthodontist may tell you to stop biting your nails for two reasons:

  1. Brace Damage: Braces are pretty strong, but they aren't unbreakable. If you chew on your nails persistently, there is a risk that you'll damage the brace itself. Or, you might push one of its retaining wires out of position, preventing it from doing its job.
  2. Tooth Damage:  According to Colgate, dentists generally recommend that you don't bite your nails, as the habit can put stress on your teeth. This may wear down your teeth more than usual, or even cause damage, such as cracking and chips. This may be more of a problem if you wear braces, as they work by putting pressure on the teeth to move them to a specific position. Adding pressure from nail biting to the mix may increase the chances that you'll develop problems with the roots in your teeth.

How to Break the Habit

If you habitually bite your nails, you may not even realise that you're doing it. This is often a nervous habit that may get worse when you feel stressed. If you don't think you can quit cold turkey, try the following tips:

  • Put a rubber band around your wrist. If you have the urge to bite your nails, try snapping the band instead. If you're about to bite your nails, seeing the band may also be enough of a reminder not to put your fingers in your mouth.
  • Buy an anti-biting varnish and apply it to your nails. These clear liquids taste nasty, so if you put your finger in your mouth to bite a nail, you'll want to take it out again pretty quickly.
  • Try doing something else to relieve stress when you want to bite your nails. For example, play with a stress ball or another object to keep your hands occupied and away from your mouth. Be careful about replacing nail biting with another oral habit. For example, chewing pencils, pen tops or gum is not recommended when you're wearing braces.

Tip: Female nail biters may find it helps to wear artificial nails when they're trying to quit the habit.