Parafunction refers to anything you do with your teeth and jaws other than what they were meant for. Among the more common parafunctions is nail biting. Nail biting is bad for you for many reasons. In addition to being damaging to your nails and your teeth, it puts stress on your temporomandibular joints, which can contribute to developing TMJ.
If you are a nail biter, it is worth the effort to try to stop it before it leads to problems.
Determine the Cause of Your Nail Biting
There are many potential causes for nail biting. If you want to reduce or eliminate your nail biting, it’s best to start by figuring out why you bite your nails.
For most people, it’s simply a side effect of boredom or stress. This nervous habit is relatively common, and it can often be dealt with simply using at-home techniques.
If at-home techniques don’t work, though, your nail biting may be related to a more serious problem. Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), compulsive disorders, and anxiety disorders are all potential causes of nail biting. If you have other symptoms of these conditions (such as obsessively washing hands or finding yourself unable to engage in certain activities due to anxiety, it’s more likely that these mental disorders are a cause of your nail biting.
Addressing Nail Biting at Home
If you think your nail biting is just a nervous habit, it’s best to start addressing it at home on your own. One of the easiest ways to try to break this habit is to pick up another one. Tapping your fingers is a good one, because it both gives you something else to do, but it also moves your fingers away from your mouth. However, probably the best tool for distraction is as close as your pocket. Find a smartphone game or app that engages and distracts you during times of nervousness or boredom.
Keeping your nails trimmed will also make it harder to bite on them. Instead, though, you may bite your fingertips. The good news is that your skin and flesh aren’t nearly as hard as your nails, and won’t lead to as much damage to your jaw. The bad news is that biting your fingertips can be painful.
Many drug stores sell bitter nail polish designed specifically to help you stop biting your fingernails. Many people find this works.
If you want to stop biting your nails and also look fabulous, many people find that manicures work. Having paid for a manicure, you might be more reluctant to bite your nails and ruin it.
Adopt relaxation techniques like meditation or yoga to help yourself better manage stress that causes nail biting.
Put bandages on your fingers or wear gloves so you can’t bite your fingernails.
If none of these techniques work, it’s time to seek professional help for your parafunctional habit.