Chewing on ice is a relatively common habit. Many people love to crunch on the cubes in the bottom of their glasses. For those who enjoy it, explaining the joy of chewing on ice is difficult – they may not know why they love it, but they just crave that cold crunch.
This may seem like a harmless habit. Indeed, chewing on ice is far less harmful than some other habits, like smoking. However, there are possible costs to chewing on ice, and it’s important to be aware of them.
Ice can crack your teeth – Brooklyn and Staten Island dentist
Chewing on ice has the potential to damage your teeth. It can cause cracks or chips in the teeth. It can also cause increased tooth sensitivity, in which cold or hot foods and beverages cause tooth pain. This is due to small cracks in the enamel, leaving the nerves inside of the tooth more exposed.
Ice cubes are very hard, much harder than most foods that you might eat normally. Even crunchy foods like nuts don’t have as much hardness as ice does. Because they’re larger and therefore require more force to chew, ice cubes are the most damaging to teeth. Ice in the form of a snow cone or slushie is much less likely to cause tooth damage.
The coldness of ice also causes freezing of tooth enamel, which makes it vulnerable to being damaged. This leads to a cycle of freezing and thawing of the enamel, which causes the enamel to expand and contract over and over. Just as it does to pavement or cement, this cycle causes small fractures to form in the tooth enamel.
It’s not just natural teeth that are vulnerable. Dental work can also be damaged by chewing on ice. Because the freezing temperatures of the materials used in dental work (such as resin and porcelain) are different from the freezing temperature of tooth enamel, chewing on ice can cause these materials to pull away from your teeth, potentially causing your fillings to fall out. Appliances like crowns and bridges can be cracked by ice chewing.
Wanting to chew ice might indicate a medical problem – Brooklyn and Staten Island dentist
The desire to chew on ice is associated with iron-deficiency anemia. This is a condition in which you don’t have enough blood cells, which can lead to symptoms such as fatigue and lack of stamina. People with iron-deficiency anemia may also have a desire to chew on other non-food items, such as clay and dirt. Medically, this is known as pica.
Although this link has been observed for years, doctors and scientists still aren’t sure why people with iron-deficiency anemia often have a desire to chew on ice. Not everyone who likes chewing on ice has anemia, but if you experience a strong desire for chewing on things that aren’t food, it’s definitely worth discussing this with your doctor. A simple blood test can check for anemia, and allow you to get treatment if you have it.