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Does your child bite his or her nails? Nail biting is a common pastime for children as a means to reduce boredom or stress. Occasional nibbling is no cause for concern, but persistent biting, down to the nail bed, can cause significant dental damage.

When your child’s adult teeth erupt, nail biting could increase the need for braces within a few years. Thrusting fingernails into the crevices between teeth will cause your child’s pearly whites to shift overtime, leading to large spacing, overcrowding and crooked alignment. When teeth shift and overlap, they become more difficult to clean, which could cause oral health issues such as tooth decay and gum disease.

Nail biting also weakens the natural protection of the teeth. You see, the hard protein of fingernails (also known as keratin) is abrasive enough to scrape enamel off the teeth. Without enamel, the softer, vulnerable tooth tissue (dentin) is left exposed to bacteria and tooth decay. Also, the constant pressure and prodding of fingernails could cause a tooth to crack or splinter. Cracked teeth hurt, and trauma to adult teeth could require dental fillings or even tooth surgery. If the crack is severe enough, the tooth may need to be removed.

If your child has a strong nail biting habit, make sure he or she visits the dentist at least every six months to monitor potential tooth trauma. In the meantime, speak to Dr. Julia Gourley, a pediatric dentist, about preventative action, such as chewing sugarless gum instead of fingernails. For more information regarding the effect of nail biting on your child’s oral health, contact Apple Family Dental at 360-423-5580 or come see us in Longview, Washington.