Nail biting can lead to bruxism

Woman biting nails

People who bite their fingernails when stressed, chew on a pencil if nervous or clench their jaw during activities such as sports competitions may be at greater risk for bruxism.

Bruxism, more commonly known as teeth grinding, is the unintentional grinding or clenching of teeth that may cause facial pain. Bruxers, a name for those who engage in the behavior, may bit down too hard unconsciously and at inappropriate time, for example, while they are sleeping. The condition is often associated with emotional stress.

"Bruxism is a very common problem, and it is treatable if you see your dentist," said Kevin Sheu, DDS, director of professional services for Delta Dental. “However, without help, bruxism can cause bigger problems."

Over time, bruxers may experience jaw pain, tense muscles, chronic headaches and sensitive teeth. Bruxism therapy helps to change your behavior by teaching you how to rest your tongue upward with teeth apart and lips shut. Forceful biting when not eating can also cause the jaw to move out of proper balance. If bruxism is not treated, a patient may have to deal with serious injury to his or her tooth enamel or receding gums in some areas because of the damage done to the alignment of the jaw. If vigorous grinding occurs at night, it can wear down the teeth.

Signs of bruxism

Because people are often not aware that they grind their teeth, it's important to be aware of the signs and to seek treatment immediately. Some signs of bruxism include:

  • Tips of the teeth appear flat
  • Tooth enamel rubbed off, causing extreme sensitivity
  • Popping and clicking of the jaw
  • Tongue indentations

Your dentist can examine your teeth to determine whether you may have bruxism and, if so, can suggest the best method of treatment. Bruxism therapy helps you change your behavior by teaching you to rest your tongue upward with teeth apart and lips shut. Simply becoming aware of the problem can be enough to stop the habit. One of the best ways to stop teeth grinding is to remove the source of stress.

Related reading

Last updated: July 2017

The oral health information on this web site is intended for educational purposes only. You should always consult a licensed dentist or other qualified health care professional for any questions concerning your oral health.

SmileWay Wellness Program

Stay Informed

Subscribe to our Wellness E-Magazine

Read back issues

Connect with us

Follow Delta Dental on Facebook Follow Delta Dental on Twitter Join Delta Dental’s Google Plus Circle Check out Delta Dental’s YouTube videos