Nip the nail biting habit for your health

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— Nail biting, also known as onychophagia, is a common habit that affects people of all ages. Biting your nails usually stems from stress or forms as a nervous habit. Most research says that children and teenagers make up the greatest number of regular nail biters.

On the surface nail biting may seem like a trivial thing in terms of affecting your health. Although it can seem like biting your nails does nothing more than make the hands look less attractive, there are actually other dangers to repeated nail biting that people prone to the habit should consider.

Firstly, biting your nails can be an unsanitary behavior. The fingers can pick up all measures of contaminants, and the nails can be an ideal location for bacteria to thrive since nails are more difficult to keep clean than the surface of the hands. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, bacteria like E. coli can live beneath the tips of your nails. When you bite your nails, those bacteria end up in your gastrointestinal system and can lead to infection. The nails also can harbor fecal matter and many other unsavory microscopic particles, even parasites. Biting your nails gives these tiny invaders easy access to your body.

Nail biting also may lead to infections on the fingers around the nail bed. The infection, called paronychia, causes redness, swelling and pain around the nail. Microorganisms can get into the skin through tiny tears and abrasions that occur while biting the nails and cuticles, says The Mayo Clinic. If the infection damages the nail bed, you can end up affecting nail growth.

Should you have warts on your hands or fingers, they easily can be transfered to your lips and mouth through nail biting.

Nail biting also can cause problems to your teeth. Prolonged nail biting may affect how the teeth form in children. It can interfere with dental occlusion, or the manner in which the upper and lower teeth come together to bite. Eventually teeth can shift out of position. The Academy of General Dentistry estimates that nail biting can result in thousands of dollars of extra dental work.

While biting your nails may seem like a harmless habit, it actually can affect personal health in a number of ways. Explore the different ways to keep from biting your nails to improve the health of your fingers, your teeth and the rest of your body. LS158374

CAPTION: Biting your nails puts you at the risk of infection and other health ailments.