But don’t take that to mean our teeth are invincible. As hard as enamel is, it’s also somewhat brittle, so we should be careful to avoid daily habits that attack that weak point. Two of the most dangerous ones are mouth breathing and nail biting.
The most obvious evidence that nail biting is a harmful habit is the shredded, torn nails, but it’s just as bad for oral health, if not worse. Nail biting can erode, chip, and crack teeth. It can shift them, creating gaps, and can even affect the bite, increasing the risk of developing a chronic teeth-grinding habit.
It also introduces all the dirt and germs under the fingernails to the gum tissue, where it can cause gum disease. Possibly the worst thing nail biting can do to the teeth is trigger root resorption, which is when the roots of teeth begin to break down, leaving the teeth in danger of falling out. This risk is even greater for orthodontic patients with wire braces.
One of the amazing things about the human body is the many redundancies built in so that we don’t lose all function if one thing breaks down. We have two kidneys, two lungs, two eyes, two ears, and two ways to breathe: through our noses and through our mouths. However, we should really try to avoid breathing through our mouths unless breathing through our noses isn’t an option.
Mouth breathing leads to a number of problems, both short and long term:
If you or your child has one or both of these harmful habits and you aren’t sure what you can do to fix it, we’re here to help! Give us a call or schedule an appointment with us, and we can discuss ways to discourage mouth breathing and nail biting so that they won’t continue to endanger your oral health. Meanwhile, keep up with the good habits like twice-daily brushing and daily flossing!