Nail biting also known as Onchyophagia is an obsessive compulsive disorder that is prevalent among children as well as adults. This habit manifests itself within the age of 7 and 10. Biting nails can be a very painful habit as it sensitizes and reddens the area of biting. The areas also become susceptible to infection allowing easy penetration of the microbes. The microbes, usually bacteria and viruses can easily settle on the reddened and sensitized area and ca be transmitted into the body via the mouth through the saliva. Infections such as pinworms can be easily transmitted into the body by nail biting as these organisms thrive in the nooks and crannies of dirty nails. The habit may also affect employability as the habit is not visually and socially aesthetic.
The effects of the habit can be easily curbed by simple methods of controlling the habit. The most effective and affordable way is by applying a coat of clear nail polish as it has a bitter taste and discourages the person to put his or her fingers in the mouth. Mouth pieces are also available that help to control this habit. If these simpler ways are not effective then one can also go in for behavioral treatment. This involves trying to replace the bad habit of nail biting with a more constructive and useful habit. Apart from that, one can also experiment with stimulus control treatments. In this we can try to control the events that lead to this stimulus of nail biting. In addition to the minor infections and disorders nail biting can often lead to more serious nail biting related disorders such as dermatillomania or skin picking, dermatophagia or skin biting and trichotillomania or the tendency to pull put hair. So it should be curbed when it can in its initial stages by the simple measures mentioned above.