FRIDAY, Dec. 30, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Nail biting can leave you with more than just unsightly fingernails -- it can have long-term consequences on your health, scientists say.
Researchers at the Texas A&M University Health Science Center offer five reasons why you should try to kick the habit.
- Fingernails have lots of dirt and germs. Chewing your fingernails means those germs get into your mouth and body, where they significantly raise your risk of illness.
- Painful nail infections. The symptoms of an infection called paronychia include a red, swollen area around the nail. If the infection is bacterial, you may develop pus-filled blisters.
- Nail biting is bad for your smile. The habit can cause your teeth to shift out of place or cause them to chip or break. Moreover, germs on your fingers could infect or irritate your gums, and cause bad breath.
- Biting your nails boosts the risk of hangnails or ingrown nails. Hangnails are open sores that can easily become infected. An ingrown nail occurs when a nail grows under your skin.
- Toxins are present in nail polish or gel polish. If you paint your nails, you also put yourself at risk of poisoning from the chemicals in the polish if you chew your nails.
Pay extra attention to your nails when you wash your hands, the researchers suggested in a university news release. And remember, "if you constantly bite at your nails, chances are you'll bite off a bit more than you expected," the researchers said.
The American Academy of Dermatology has more on nail care.