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GENERAL INFORMATION ABOUT NAIL BITING

Nail biting has been described as the habit of biting one’s fingernails or toenails during periods of nervousness, stress or boredom.  Even in this less serious situation, the habit can still cause physical damage and emotional or social distress.  Since there is no way of predicting which child will develop accompanying symptoms, it is prudent to eliminate oral habits while the child is still young. Growing The Nails was developed to respond to parents’ requests for a kinder method that doesn’t involve negative means to bring about a change in a child’s behavior.   Growing The Nails does this by providing a child-parent “team approach.”

Some studies make a distinction between mild forms and severe forms of nail biting. They take into consideration the intensity, frequency and duration of the habit.  How powerfully is the nail being held between the teeth and what type of 
biting is occurring?  How strongly is the child biting on the nail or sides of the fingers?  How often is the child indulging in this noxious oral habit?  How long has the habit been going on?  How long does an average occurrence last?  
The following consequences will vary from person to person, depending upon the answers to the above questions as well as factors of heredity and environment.  

Consequences
Dental, Periodontal/Gingival Damage, Orthodontic
• Tooth Enamel damage and decay - A long-time habit of nail biting may have detrimental effects on the enamel of the front teeth, promoting tooth decay in these areas according to the American Dental Association.  

Temporomandibular Disorder

• TMJ issues - “jaw” problems such as facial pain or clicking or popping in the area of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ).  Although there are many causes of TMJ pain and disorders and it is sometimes difficult to find the cause(s), 
Hughston Sports Medicine Foundation (www.hughston.com) reports that negative oral habits including nail biting are often the causative factor in younger people with symptoms.  This is because nail biting and other noxious oral habits put the jaw in an abnormal position that results in wear and tear of the TMJ.

Germs,  Infections, and Pain

• Paronychia (par a NICK eeya) is the term for inflammation and infection of the skin around the nail.  Fingernail biting and thumb sucking are common causes of paronychia in children.  It begins with a painful, red, warm swollen area of 
skin around the nail that is often described as “boggy.” This can lead to a pus formation that will separate the skin and the nail.  

• Germs - There is no doubt whatsoever that nail biting is a common means of transporting germs directly into the mouth from the fingers themselves and from the areas under the nails.

Social and Emotional Consequences
Studies have found that interaction in class as well as participation is affected and limited by sucking behaviors.

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