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Yes, chewing ice is bad for your teeth.
According to Dr. Khushbu Aggarwal, one of NewMouth’s in-house dentists, chewing even small pieces can weaken the protective layer of teeth (called enamel). This can leave teeth vulnerable to cavities and progressive fractures over time. It can also cause tooth sensitivity to hot and cold foods and drinks.
Chewing ice falls under the broad medical term “pica,” which is craving or chewing substances that have no nutritional value, such as ice, paper, or glue. To be categorized as pica, the habit must continue for more than a month.1
Craving and chewing ice is referred to as pagophagia and is usually associated with a nutritional deficiency, such as iron. One study found that young women and blood donors of all genders are at a higher risk of developing pagophagia.2
People with pagophagia may experience the following symptoms in addition to craving ice:
Research shows that most people with both pagophagia and an iron deficiency will stop chewing on ice once their iron levels return to normal.3
Chewing on ice may also be a way for some people to reduce anxiety. In some cases, it could be related to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or dehydration.
Chewing ice can weaken or fracture your tooth enamel.
According to Dr. Aggarwal, additional dangers of chewing ice include:
If you find that you crave ice and chew it for longer than a month, you may have pagophagia. You will need to break the habit to avoid these oral health issues.
If you suspect you have pagophagia, the first step is to seek professional advice from your doctor. They will run labs to check for nutritional deficiencies, especially iron deficiency. An iron supplement may help curb your cravings if you have a deficiency.
Dr. Aggarwal also recommends the following to help break an ice chewing habit:
Swapping ice for another alternative to chew on can also be a helpful strategy for breaking the habit. A few other options to try include:
Crunchy, healthy snacks are a great alternative because they have nutritional benefits you won’t get from chewing ice.
According to Dr. Aggarwal, it may be time to see a dentist about compulsive ice chewing if you notice any of the following signs:
Chewing ice is bad for your teeth. It can damage your enamel, cause cavities, and make you more likely to fracture or crack your teeth. Also known as pagophagia, it is correlated with an iron deficiency and is frequently resolved with treatment.
Using various strategies, including chewing healthy foods instead, you can break an ice chewing habit. Always visit a medical provider if you are concerned about your behaviors or symptoms.
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