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How to stop your child from biting their nails

Updated: Feb 3, 2023

Kids can bite their nails for many reasons: curiosity, boredom, stress relief, habit, or imitation. But when they chew on nails for an extended period of time, kids increase the risk of cracking teeth or snagging gums with sharp fingernails. Putting fingers in the mouth can also increase their chances of getting sick from germs on or under fingernails.

To help your kids break the habit of chewing on their fingernails, start with a few suggestions below to keep their smiles looking healthy. And don’t forget to tell us about it at their next appointment. We can help, too!

Ways to address your child’s nail biting

  • Don’t nag or punish. When your child bites their nails, they may be full of worry or stress. Pay attention to what is happening around them when they bite their nails and ask them about it. It could be getting ready for school, another child, or tone of voices around them. By simply talking about it with them can relieve worry and help them feel supported.

  • Redirect the behavior. Try to redirect the chewing behavior towards a healthier outlet like giving them a fun stress ball to squeeze, holding a worry stone, or a clicking toy. Chewing sugar-free gum can help distract from the mouth.

  • Get a fun manicure. Whether you do it at home or at a nail salon, giving your child a manicure can be a fun and useful distraction from biting nails. Don’t want to use nail polish? You can also put stickers on their nails. They won’t want to ruin how good their nails look!

  • Cut nails short. If nails are short, there isn’t as much to bite. File any ragged edges to decrease the temptation to chew on them.

  • Make nails taste yucky. Local pharmacies now have over-the-counter products with bitter tastes that are meant to stop nail biting.

  • Ask us! Reach out to us or ask at your child’s next appointment for additional ways to break the habit.

Remember, just because your child bites their nails, it doesn’t mean they always will. Many kids grow out of the habit. Addressing it early will help them develop healthy coping skills and teeth!

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