How many of you bite your nails? I know I used to be guilty of it. The habit started when I was a kid and came with me well into university. Everyone would tell me to stop, but I just thought it was because it makes your nails look bad. As it turns out, biting your nails is a disgusting habit and can actually be poisoning you.
Here are some reasons you should stop biting your nails. If these don't convince you, nothing will.
1. They're Filthy
Your fingernails are twice as dirty as your fingers. They catch all the dirt and debris underneath, and even if you wash your hands the dirt can still gather there. Imagine all the things you touch throughout the day, then eating the dirt that comes with it. Plus, remember you use your hands when you go to the bathroom...
"Our hands come into contact with all kinds of debris and pathogens, and stuff tends to get stuck under our nails," Dr. Adam Friedman says.
2. It Makes You Sick
In addition to all that gross dirt under your nails, your nails also collect a ton of bacteria. In an experiment conducted by Turkish scientists in 2007, 59 people had their mouths swabbed for bacteria that causes diarrhea and vomiting, like Escherichia coli. 76% of people who bite their nails tested positive for the bacteria, compared to 26.5% of those who do not. Biting your nails exposes your body to numerous bacteria and viruses, so why put your health at risk?
3. Dental Bills
Biting your nails isn't just bad for your stomach health, but it can also damage your teeth. When you bite your nails, your teeth click together, which can cause significant damage over time. It can lead to tooth chips, damage, and even tooth loss. Plus, if your nail ends up cutting your lip or gum, bacteria can get into the wound and cause even more problems.
"It was determined that the recession defects were indirect effects of habitual [nail biting.]," said one study conducted through the American Journal of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics. The fingernail-biting habit and the lingual bonded retainer led to the indirect development of bone dehiscence and, consequently, [gum] recession."
4. Hand Herpes
Alright, so maybe that's not what it's called, but if you have oral herpes, which 40% of adults do, it can be passed to your fingers through nail biting. It's called herpetic whitlow. You'll notice a fever, plus a painful, burning sensation in your fingertips. You could also develop blood-filled sores which will last for about two weeks. Doesn't sound too pleasant, does it?
5. Nail Polish Poisoning
For women that are biting their nails, you could be putting yourself at further risk. If you bite your nails while wearing nail polish, you're actually ingesting the toxins it contains. Imagine someone asked you to eat nail polish? You'd say no. It may take a while for the toxins to build up, but is that really something you want to risk?
6. You'll Stink
According to studies, biting your nails leads to bad breath due to all the bacteria that builds up in your mouth. Your mouth is designed to break down a certain amount of bacteria, which is what your saliva is for, but it's not designed to deal with all the extra stuff you're adding in there. So unless you feel like having a Tic Tac in your mouth at all times, it's probably a good idea to stop biting your nails.
7. Puss Build-Up
The thought of this alone is enough to make my stomach turn. People who bite their nails often peel and chew the skin around it as well. Doing this exposes an open wold to bacteria, which is never good. As the nail and surrounding area become infected with bacteria, puss begins to build up. There's a scientific term for this, called acute infective paronychia. The only way to cure it is with pills or by having your finger drained of all the puss.
Biting the "matrix" of your fingernails, which is the generative layer where your nail grows from, can cause permanent damage. It can lead to chronic ingrown nails (which are painful), or even nail deformities. Unless you want your nails to grow weird or be super painful, it's time to cut the nasty habit!