Biting Nails

My 3 year old daughter chews her fingernails and toe nails. I have asked her DR. for ways to stop this, but she shrugged and said it is not a big deal. I think that biting nails may hurt your teeth (wear, chipping). Are there any health risks in this activity? How do I get her to stop? P.S. Don’t recommend nasty tasting polish, she does not care. She gnaws it off.

IMO, it’s a habit and habits can (and should) be changed. She probably doesn’t have any long term problems with it like tooth erosion but she’ll certainly have crappy looking nails. I’m certainly not one to ask about child behaviors so hopefully someone with more knowledge on the subject will stop by soon. My suggestions…Gentle discouragement perhaps? Duct tape?

My sisters had this problem… there was some kind of brush-on goo you can paint on their nails that makes them taste really terrible and helps break them of the habit. I think it’s called ‘bitter apple’ or something… sorry I can’t be more specific, but it was many years ago.

I’m sorry, I neglected to read the last line of your post. I’m an idiot. :frowning:

On a similar note, my parents had limited success with attempts to bribe us out of our vices.

Things like “We’ll pay you a nickel for every day you don’t bite your nails”… until they’re used to not biting them anymore… maybe issue fines for infractions, things like that.

I bit my nails for 26 years, and although my fingers looked like sausages, I it didn’t result in any dental problems. I quit last year, as a first step to quit smoking. My hands look great now, but unfortunately, they’re usually holding a cigarette.

I tried giving her M&M’s as a bribe for not biting (hey, it worked for Potty Training at 1 and 1/2 years old) but alas, no results. It really bugs me that her nails are nubby from her crunching.

My momma used to give me the dire warning that if I chewed my nails, I would get worms.

I never got worms (to my knowledge) and didn’t stop chewing until I was in my twenties. It wasn’t until I kept my nails cut very short and biting became painful that I broke the habit.

Can someone explain to me what is wrong with biting your nails? This seems to be one of those control issues, like left-handers being forced to write with their right hands, that defies any reason. When one of my fingernails grows too long for my taste, I bite it to a shorter length. What is the big deal? How is that a “bad habit”? Why must you use a nail clipper? That’s like saying you shouldn’t scratch your back with your own hand, you must buy a back scratcher to do it.

If nail biting was simply a grooming activity, it probably would not be objected to as much. It is not simply grooming, it is a nervous habit and those that do it bite them back to the quick (wherever that is). If the bad tasting polish doesn’t work, then you will probably just have to pray she stops. That usually happens sometime after you stop bitching about it. TME.

The problem with biting nails is that, over time, the nails and nail beds get permanently damaged. It’s also a very unattractive habit (for either sex).

IF the child in question likes make up, etc, you can try giving her a manicure. Point out how nice her nails look when they’re not bitten and nicely manicured. However, this tends to limit play, as the little girl might not want to mess up her nails by climbing trees, making mudpies, etc.

Plus the little tike in question chews her TOENAILS!! That’s not only a bad habit, that’s just grody.

I bit my nails all through childhood (yes, down to the quick - that’s wherever it starts hurting to bite it) and in fact I chewed them off all through my first marriage. For some reason when I got divorced (i.e. moved out on my own) I quit biting.

It was soothing - don’t ask me why. I didn’t make any special effort to QUIT biting. Nothing will induce a true nail-biter to quit… my parents offered me $100 per nail and I still couldn’t do it - it’s a reflexive habit.

Oddly enough the one time I tried dating again I also started biting my nails… my nails look nice now, thank you very much! :wink: But I’m also not dating anyone! It’s a de-stressor, or at least it was for me (though I didn’t realize it until the last three or four years).

And you’re right, that nasty-tasting nail polish wouldn’t work – just another irritant that makes you want to bite your nails more!! :smiley: Good luck, because short of punishment by death I wasn’t stopping. Not for rebellion purposes, mind you - it was just something as ingrained as breathing and blinking.

You asked the doctor and the doctor told you what you didn’t want to hear. Like many kiddo habits, the more you make of it, the less likely it is to go away on its own. You’ve already made a big deal out of it. That could also indicate that your child has reason to be “nervous.” Give it a rest. At some point, kids know that they bite their nails, and they either stop by their own choice or they don’t, and girls usually do.

What CC said. Pathological nail biting (that which causes infections, tissue and nail bed destruction) is quite rare. Other nail biting may seem unattractive, but it is not a threat to health and/or life. And toenail biting decreases as the person gets less limber with age.

The more attention called to the nail-biting, the worse the behavior becomes. To stop, the person has to really, really, really want to stop. No nagging will help.

Some people just drop the behavior, for reasons which are seldom very clear.


I bit my nails until I was 23. Often I’d bite them far enough down that they’d bleed. I’d estimate that 75% of the time I wasn’t even aware that I was biting them, but when made aware, I’d still continue. I’d do it when nervous, when bored, when engrossed in a book, when thinking, when happy, when sad, basically when breathing :slight_smile:

My parents tried the nasty nail polish (every available brand), they even tried tying mittens on my hand for weeks at a time, but every time they’d take them off (to shower, etc) I’d be biting.

It took a mental shift before I was able to stop, and believe me I tried for three years as an adult. It was actually as hard, possibly even harder, as when I quit smoking. I have no idea how you could stop this, since my parents tried everything I can imagine and none of it worked.

Hi all,

When I was a kid, I saw a picture of the Venus de Milo, and asked my mother, “Where are her arms?”

Mom tsk-tsked and said, “See what happens when you can’t stop biting your nails?”

Mom was a card. I miss her. I’m forty-eight and still bite my nails, but ARTISTICALLY. They look pretty good, all things considering.

(I know: TMI.)

I wish I had an answer for this. My daughter chews her nails right up to the elbow. It does seem to be related to stress. If she is idle in a stressful situation (like waiting for the serve in a volleyball game), you can be sure those hands are in her mouth. She has chewed her nails completely off. Above the nails, she has callouses where her teeth rub the skin. She also peels the skin around her fingers. It even sometimes interferes with her clarinet playing.

What is this nailbed damage people have written about? What should I look for? How can (or, realistically, will she) cause permanent damage?

By the way, she is ADHD. She takes medication that is effective for that, but we’ve been unsuccessful with the nailbiting. Anti-anxiety medicines worked a little, but she hated taking them. She said that she felt weird.

Bribery often works in the short term.

As do films involving electron microscopes that explainexactly what’s under your fingernails.

Piano lessons worked for me. Partially. Because I had to have short fingernails for piano, I rebelled after a while by trying to have longer fingernails (bitten to the quick until they tell me that I have to have them there) and so stopped biting them. For the most part.

I’ll occasionally bite a nail now, but it isn’t a constant habit with my fingers always in my mouth. (The bitter stuff didn’t work for me either.)

I’ve been biting my nails and cuticles as long as I can remember, its a terrible habit that I can’t seem to stop. (I’m 30 years old now).

From what I have read, and I don’t know if there is any truth to this, it is a oral fixation that can develop because a child is forced to stop breat feeding too early. Again I don’t know if there is truth to that.

What I do know is that in times of stress I will start to bite. Gum is useless as I’ll often find myself chewing on both. Its less to do with the fingers and more with having some kind of resistance to the jaw which nails and cuticle skin seem to be perfect for. Its so totally gross and yet I can’t seem to stop myself. Worse that smoking if you ask me, I managed to quit that after several years with relatively little effort.