What to Do about a Lost Nail?
June 20, 2011 5:58 AM   Subscribe

Well, three months after crushing a finger in a car door, the bone seems to have healed nicely, but my nail has just fallen off.

I have a little nail covering about a third of the normal nail space, which has been pushing the old nail out. The old nail came off without any particular pain (although the finger is now a bit sensitive) -- this is pretty much the natural process, as I understand it. It's my little finger on my dominant hand, although I doubt that has any bearing on answers.

My question is: Outside of what I have been doing (daily wipes with alcohol, wearing a latex glove while using cleaners or getting my hands dirty, wearing a bandage when I am at work to keep the grime off), is there any specific care I should be taking? Obviously, you are not my medical personnel of any sort; what has worked for you?
posted by GenjiandProust to Health & Fitness (15 answers total)
That's about the sum of it. You were gonna lose this nail sooner or later, and as long as you take reasonable steps to avoid banging it up any more, you should be fine. It's now open to the air, so the odds of infection are pretty low, particularly if you clean it regularly.
posted by valkyryn at 6:03 AM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

Did this myself a couple years back (small finger on my non-dominant hand) and all I can say is that I had some residual blood / scabbing that had been covered up by the new nail growing in before it fell off. This caused the new nail to grow in a bit funny - the part that's "open" at the top goes down towards the base of the nail a bit further than it should. Doesn't hurt but looks a little funny and I suppose it always will. So all I can say is try to make sure when you're cleaning it that there's not anything substantial in there that the nail might grow over, and if there is, think about seeing a doctor to have them work on it before the nail grows all the way in.
posted by allkindsoftime at 6:13 AM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yeah, you're fine. I also slammed my finger in a door once and also lost the nail after a couple weeks, and I wasn't even doing the specific care steps you were taking and it was still fine.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:34 AM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Fourthing the 'you're fine' chorus. I slammed my middle non-dominant finger in a locker at high school and while the nail looks a little bit strange now (and is slightly thicker than my other nails), it grew back in just fine. And I definitely wasn't super careful, as you're being.
posted by sperose at 6:46 AM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

You're fine, survivor of thumb nail and two big toe nails here. As long as you keep it clean, it'l be ok.
posted by arcticseal at 7:06 AM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

I lost both my big toe nails playing Ultimate Frisbee and they grew back just fine. Doesn't look any different than they did before.
posted by octothorpe at 7:23 AM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've been through this (in fact am close to being done with my most recent experience of it, on my left thumb) and there's nothing special to do. The only real concern is that the nailbed is more sensitive/tender than most of the rest of your skin so you want to avoid poking it... which is really easy to do on a hand you use and stick into pockets. But left to its own devices it'll continue to grow out normally.
posted by phearlez at 7:37 AM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

I recently pulled my whole thumbnail out when I broke my thumb in a car door.

My advice differs somewhat from what people have said above. Be careful not to use that finger too much while the nail is growing back.

I've ended up with an ingrown thumbnail and it is very painful.
posted by vincele at 7:44 AM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

I smashed the pointer finger of my left hand in a metal door when I was eight. I lost the nail and it took a few months for the new nail to grow back. I was a little kid so I barely kept the thing from getting smashed again, forget about keeping it clean.

One thing I noticed was that when the new nail finally did come in it was much softer and thinner than my other nails. It took a full ten years before it was the same as my other nails. I have pretty thin nails to begin with, but this one was much worse. It would tear and bend very easily so I had to keep that nail really short and be careful with that hand when I was playing rough.
posted by TooFewShoes at 7:52 AM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

I slammed my finger in a car door when I was a kid (about 10?) and the nail fell off after a few weeks, like yours. I don't remember taking any special care regarding cleanliness, and I didn't have any problems.

(But that finger has always been a bit fatter than its equivalent on the other hand. Also, being a kid, I kept the nail for years. Gross.)
posted by equivocator at 6:48 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Ha, wow, all of us klutzes who slammed our fingers in car doors are coming out of the woodwork for this one. You'll be fine, but that finger and nail will be funny-looking for a while. I slammed my finger some ten years ago and I think it's just now getting to a point where there isn't a clearly visible scar under my nail.
posted by troublesome at 12:42 AM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

I must be more accident prone, no car doors: 1 x thumb nail - drunken door incident in Italy (has a nice line in the nail bed to remind me), 1 x big toe - skiing incident, 1 x big toe - sandals and a heavy case.

All healed OK and you just have to protect it against being knocked while it's growing back.
posted by arcticseal at 1:17 AM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

OK, thanks, everyone for the peace of mind. I guess I will just keep on doing what I am doing. (Although I had an incident last night where I poked my exposed nail bed with a piece of crusty bread. I was not expecting that pain, oh no.).
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:35 AM on June 21, 2011

Assuming anyone is look at this, the nail seems to be growing back OK (although it's a bit funny looking), and keeping it clean seems to be doing the job. Thanks for the advice and stories!
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:33 PM on July 20, 2011

Yeah, it may grow back with a ridge or two on it, but otherwise a perfectly serviceable nail :)
posted by arcticseal at 4:07 AM on July 21, 2011

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