VERIFY: Can your child get fingernails stuck in their gums?

A mother wants others to know that she found fingernails in her son's gums.

A Louisiana mother is warning parents about the potential dangers of biting your nails.

Sara Guidry posted to her Facebook page that something looked odd in her son Kale's gums, describing it as something “white in his gums.”

“I get a tweezer and pull it. It looked like a fingernail. I continued to pull four more out. I then search his mouth and find another area,” says Guidry on her Facebook post.

Guidry claims to have pulled out 27 fingernails from her son’s gums with tweezers.

 

 

The following is from Guidry’s Facebook post:

"The dentist has never seen anything like this. We figured out that Kale bites his nails and plays with them in his mouth. He pushes them up towards his palate. The nail penetrates the skin and goes into a pocket between the baby teeth and permanent teeth. Don't let your children bite their nails! If you can handle the disgust check out the video."

The post has received over 160,000 shares.

I spoke with pediatric dentist Francisco Bezerra, D.D.S. PA, who has over 14 years’ experience as a dentist. A decade of that Bezerra has worked with children.

Bezerra says yes, absolutely, this can happen to your child. Over the years, he has seen some of his child patients have fingernails stuck in their gums.

“There was a mother that came in crying, thinking that the child had some very bad disease that is causing these hard things to grow out of the child’s gum. The child had four or five pieces (of fingernails) stuck in their gum line,” says Bezerra

I asked Bezerra if this is common? He says yes.

He mentions it usually happens when a child is losing his or her baby teeth. The tooth may be loose, so they try and pick at it with their nail.

Another reason, the child has a nail biting problem.

The American Dental Association has several articles saying nail biting could lead to torn or damaged gum tissue caused by sharp fingernail edges.

If there is dirt or bacteria on the nail, it could lead to the spread of bacteria in the mouth and vice versa to the exposed nail bed. 

“The gums will be inflamed and pus can be coming out of there,” says Bezerra.

What can parents do?

  • Check child’s teeth daily
  • Be present when child is brushing teeth
  • There is medication to help stop nail biting

“It's called Mavala Stop. What it does it causes a bitter taste, so that children will despise that bitter taste and not want to bite their nails or suck their thumbs,” he says.

Bezerra advises if people are biting their nails, picking their skin or pulling out their hair to the point where they are damaging their bodies they should seek professional help.  

A study from the Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Clinic of Shiraz University in 2008 found that 75 percent of children referred to a mental health clinic who had nail biting problems had attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

The following are risks associated with nail biting provided by Mercola:

Disease-Causing Bacteria

Your nails are an ideal location for bacteria to thrive, and that includes potentially pathogenic bacteria like Salmonella and E. coli (which would love to call the underside of your nail tips home).

As you bite your nails, those bacteria easily transfer into your mouth and the rest of your body, where they may lead to infections. Your fingernails may actually be twice as dirty as your fingers, considering they're difficult to keep clean, making this a prime point of transfer for infectious organisms.

Nail Infections

Nail biters are susceptible to paronychia, a skin infection that occurs around your nails. As you chew your nails, bacteria, yeast, and other microorganisms can enter through tiny tears or abrasions, leading to swelling, redness, and pus around your nail.

This painful condition may have to be drained surgically. Bacterial infections caused by nail biting are actually one of the most common nail problems, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD).

Warts Due to HPV Infections

Warts on your fingers caused by human papillomavirus, or HPV, are common among chronic nail biters. (Here I'm referring to the types of HPV that cause warts on your hands, as opposed to those that lead to genital warts and, rarely, cervical cancer.) These warts can easily spread to your mouth and lips as you bite your nails.

Dental Problems

Nail biting can interfere with proper dental occlusion, or the way your upper and lower teeth come together when you close your mouth.

Your teeth may shift out of their proper position, become misshapen, wear down prematurely, and become weakened if you bite your nails over time. The Academy of General Dentistry estimates that frequent nail biters may rack up $4,000 in additional dental bills over the course of their lifetime.

Impaired Quality of Life

A study published this year found that people who chronically bite their nails report significantly higher quality of life impairment than those who do not.

 

SOURCES

Dr. Francisco Bezzara, D.D.S. PA

Mercola

National Institutes of Health

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