Break That Ice-Chewing Habit

July 1, 2022


What is it about chewing ice that makes it so dangerous? Despite the fact that it can cause irreversible damage to your teeth, many people have a tough time breaking the habit. Let’s take a closer look at ice chewing and its effects on dental health.

Compulsive Ice Eating, or Pagophagia

The medical term for compulsive ice eating is pagophagia. For some people, it’s more than just a bad habit and actually indicates a psychological disorder called pica. Pica is defined as the need to eat non-food items, such as dirt, clay, hair, or ice, and is often caused by a nutritional deficiency.

How Iron Deficiency Anemia Leads to Eating Ice

Recent research has shown a connection between the compulsive eating of ice and iron deficiency anemia, a disorder that affects 3% of men and 20% of women. This number also increases up to 50% for pregnant women.What does eating ice have to do with iron levels? Because ice doesn’t contain iron, how can eating it help treat an iron deficiency? It’s actually quite intriguing. Iron is required for our red blood cells to effectively carry oxygen throughout our bodies, so an iron deficiency reduces the amount of oxygen delivered to the brain. By eating ice, they stimulate the blood flow to the head (and the brain), giving them a sudden boost in alertness and mental clarity.

How Ice Affects Our Teeth and Gums

All of this may appear to be a sensible solution to iron deficiency, but it actually comes with some serious drawbacks. Tooth enamel is the toughest substance in the body, but it’s also very brittle. Ice isn’t just dangerous to chew because it’s hard, but more specifically because it’s cold. This is because crunching and grinding ice makes tooth enamel expand and contract - similar to the pavement in places that get a lot of snow. Just like that pavement, the enamel will also form cracks over time. The weaker the enamel is, the more susceptible the rest of the tooth is too painful sensitivity and decay.Chewing ice isn’t ideal for gum tissue either. Due to its temperature, ice creates a numbing sensation while chewing, making it harder to notice an injury if it slips and slashes the gums. In severe cases, ice can even chip or break teeth.

How Can I Break My Ice-Chewing Habit?

Before treating the symptoms, it’s important to learn about the cause. If the pagophagia is caused by iron deficiency, iron supplements may help to eliminate the ice cravings. If the problem is pica, a variety of solutions, including therapy and medication, are available.If the craving is less about ice and more about the crunch, we recommend swapping the ice with baby carrots or apple slices. If it really is about the ice but not related to pica or iron deficiency, try letting the ice melt on your tongue instead of crunching down on it.

A Dentist in Colorado Springs Can Help

If you have an ice chewing habit, visiting a dentist in Colorado Springs is a great place to start. We can figure out what’s causing it and treat existing damage to your gum tissue and teeth, as well as prevent further damage by helping you break the habit. It’s time to put your ice-chewing days behind you and schedule an appointment with Esthetic Family Dentistry today!The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

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