Is Biting Your Toenails Bad For You?

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The Doctors: Is It OK To Bite Your Toenails?

David is a 36-year-old viewer who bites his toenails. His wife doesn’t like it, but he’s done it since childhood. He wondered if there are any health hazards to this behavior.

Dr. Travis Stork invited David and a podiatrist to the studio to reveal the answer to his question. David admitted that he doesn’t always wash his feet before biting his toenails.

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Podiatrist Dr. Philip Radovic said this is actually a common behavior, but it is unsafe.

The Drs: Biting Your Toenails

Most of the health dangers of biting your toenails are microscopic, but they can have serious consequences.

Why You Shouldn’t Bite Your Toenails

Dr. Travis said the first problem is that it is a gross habit. But Dr. Radovic had some medically sound advice about why you should not bite your toenails.

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Though he said David’s feet are clean, they could have fungi like Athlete’s foot that you might not see on your feet. If you get yeast from this in your mouth, it can cause a gross condition call Thrush, which is hard to treat.

The Drs TV: Invisible Foot Fungus & Bacteria

The Human Papillomavirus (HPV) could also be invisible on your feet. It causes warts, and you may not notice it until warts develop on your mouth or lips.

Dr. Radovic also said that toe jam contains an appalling menagerie of microscopic bacteria, hair, grease, and sock fibers that can be transferred to the mouth.

The Doctors: Ingrown Toenails

Dr. Travis investigated David’s feet. Dr. Radovic observed that they are clean, but hairy, feet. But his toenails are jagged from all the biting, and that can lead to ingrown toenails and Staph or Strep infections.

Dr. Travis concluded that these are all great reasons to give up the compulsive habit of biting your toenails. But for people like David who have done this since childhood, it can be a hard habit to break.

How To Stop Biting Toenails

“It’s an oral fixation, usually induced by anxiety,” Dr. Radovic explained. He suggested finding a substitute that works for you, such as chewing gum or toothpicks.

You could also wear socks around the house, to put a barrier between you and your toenails. Finally, Dr. Radovic suggested the same approach you use to keep dogs from chewing on the furniture. Put something with a bitter taste on your toenails. That way the foul taste will dissuade you from your compulsion, at least in theory.

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