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Why do my nails and teeth crack?

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QUESTION: Dear doctor, my nails and teeth often crack. They even break sometimes. What could be the problem? Jerusha.

ANSWER: Dear Jerusha,
According to dentists, every tooth has lines (cracks). These lines are normal and are called incremental lines.
However, there are also pathological lines which form a syndrome when they are more than one (cracked tooth syndrome-CTS).

Causes
The most common cause is physical injury, especially sports. The second cause is grinding teeth due to Bruxism. The third one is chewing Marijuana or eating hard food.

Other causes also include: deficiency of vitamins and minerals like Biotin (vitamin B7) and calcium respectively.

When you take water with a lot of fluoride, you could get these cracks too.

Symptoms and signs
Pain while chewing, discoloration of teeth, discomfort, sensitivity to hot and cold, and for cracks below gum root, swollen gum.

Tooth cracking is caused by multiple factors including physical injury, grinding and chewing hard food, among others. (Source/Drummoyne)

Diagnosis & treatment
A dentist may examine using a dental mirror or magnifying glass to see the cracks.

He/she may also explore with a dental probe; a die which reveals an area with a crack.

An x-ray could also be used to reveal the cracks where the other means have proven ineffective.

Once established, the tooth is then repaired with cement or root canal if the cracks have gone down to the roots.

Prevention
Stop eating hard food and eat a balanced diet. When grinding, provide mouth guards, especially for those who do contact sports. Moreso, stop clenching.

Nails
Skin and nail diseases are diagnosed and treated by dermatologists. A split nail is characterized by a crack or cracks forming on your nail.

Nail splits can be horizontal, across the nail tip or vertical, splitting the nail into two.

Causes
Moisture, picking and biting, psoriasis, deficiencies (folic acid, protein and vitamin C), injury, diseases (thyroid, liver, kidney, and skin cancer) and infections such as onchomychosis.

Onchomychosis is a fungal infection of the nail which is most common among diabetic patients and those who are immune suppressed such as HIV and cancer patients on drugs, organ transplant patients and malnourished people.

Diagnosis
Nail clippings and skin scrapings are sent for mycological analysis.

Fungal hyphae are seen through microscopy and cultures from skin and nails for infections.

Prevention
Keep your nails clean, refrain from keeping your hands or feet in water for long, and use moisturizer on your nails and cuticles.

Use nail hardening products if necessary and do not bite or pick around your nails.

Also, refrain from using nail polish remover as much as you can.

Treatment
Fungal infections are treated for long periods (6-12 weeks) using antifungal drugs.

Answered by Dr Molino Binywasiki of Mulago National Referral Hospital.

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