What in the world is Onychophagia?

If words like Onychophagia make you nervous, you may actually do what it means – bite your nails! According to some statistics, nail biting is ‘popular’ with – and most likely the bane of – quite a sizeable chunk of the population.


Approximate percentage of nail biters by age:

– 30% of kids aged 7-10
– 45% of teenagers
– 25% of young adults
– 5% of older adults

Most adults who bite their nails know it’s not a good thing to do, but maybe they bury their head in the sand about just how ‘not good’ it is. Here are a few salient facts that may help Onychophagiacs kick the habit forever:

Germs and bacteria – Consider everything we touch in the course of 24 hours. Our fingers tell the tale of everything we do. So even if we wash our hands several times a day, our fingers are still gathering places for unsavoury germy stuff. Given that our fingernails are harder to keep clean and thus even more dirty than our fingers, guess what is lurking under those nails. Would you willingly invite this melange of yuck into your mouth? You are doing just that if you bite your nails. And this is compounded if your gums are cut by pieces of nail, ensuring that lovely dirt goes directly into your bloodstream. Moreover, it works both ways – the germs that hide in our mouth can be transferred to the skin that often breaks around our nails when we chew away, and again go into the blood.

Dental problems – It’s hard to imagine with all the snacking people do, but according to dentists our teeth are not actually designed to chomp away all the time. Nail biting generally keeps our teeth on the move, wearing them down faster than is the case for those fortunate non-biters, especially because nails are hard material. Not least, nail biting stresses and can weaken the front teeth, perhaps making them go crooked before long.

Plain embarrassment – Nail biters are often unaware of what they look like when spotted. When they do get an inkling or receive a comment or two, it can be more than embarrassing. Coupled with the fact that their unattractive nails tell a very public story of this continuing habit.

Money money money – For those who bite their nails, extra dentist bills for remedial work go hand in hand with the hidden cost of more bouts of illness created by the ingestion of excess bacteria. Enough $aid.

It does seem a shame to ruin all the good work of Mother Nature in giving us nails that we can shape, adorn and cherish. If we go so far as to make our nails strong and beautiful – for example by taking those marvellous Qsilica ONE-A-DAY tablets – it would certainly be a smart move to consign Onychophagia to the dustbin of our personal history.

Yours, Jessica Palmer at Qsilica