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Chewing on Ice: Why It Can be Harmful

Do you find yourself frequently chewing on ice cubes? Not only can this be damaging to the teeth, it can be a sign of an early medical problem. Here’s what you need to know.

Do you find yourself frequently chewing on ice? Although the act of chewing on ice cubes may seem to be a harmless pastime, the constant need to chew ice may signal more serious problems. On top of that, the ice chewing can do serious damage to your pearly whites.

Why are some people so fond of ice chewing? The desire to chew ice is considered to be a form of pica which is medical problem where a person has the strong need to chew on substances that have no nutritional value. This can include the desire to chew on such strange things as rocks, clay, soil, and even feces. When compared to these crunchers, chewing on ice cubes doesn’t sound so bad!

The desire to chew ice can sometimes be a sign of iron deficiency anemia. Because of this, you most often see ice chewing in younger women who happen to be at the highest risk for being iron deficient. The correlation between chewing ice and iron deficiency anemia is so strong that it’s recommended that you see a doctor for a blood test if you find yourself chewing on ice frequently. No one knows exactly why people with iron deficiency anemia have the need to chew ice cubes, but it may be due to the mild tongue and mouth soreness that sometimes go along with iron deficiency. Occasionally, chronic ice chewing can be a sign of other nutritional deficiencies.

Even if your blood tests for iron deficiency come back normal, chewing ice cubes can have negative health consequences in the form of injury to your teeth. Just as biting down on nuts and other hard objects can cause damage to your teeth so can a hard piece of ice. Chomping down on one too many ice cubes can cause a tooth to chip or fracture which can result in formation of an abscess and a trip to your dentist for a root canal. This is especially true if you have fillings in your teeth which weakens their structure making a fracture or crack more likely. Keep in mind that root canals can be expensive and uncomfortable. Is it worth it?

If you find that despite your best efforts you can’t overcome an ice chewing addiction, try substituting something a softer that you can suck on more slowly such as a popsicle or other frozen treat. Another option is to continue to enjoy ice cubes by allowing them to melt in your mouth rather than biting down on them and risking a painful tooth fracture. If you can’t overcome your addiction, you’re not alone. There’s even an online forum dedicated to ice chewing at icechewing.com. Who would have known?

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  1. From article: The desire to chew ice can sometimes be a sign of iron deficiency anemia.

  2. nice article! i didnt know this was such a complex issue. all that i have read before is that ice is a crystal, so is your teeth, so its both the gnashing as well as the sudden change in temperature that causes teeth (a crystal) to possibly fracture.

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