May 27, 2024

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This is the reason you should never crunch ice with your teeth

3 min read

A dentist has revealed why you should never crunch ice with your teeth.

Apart from being irritating to those around you, if it becomes a habit, chewing ice could cause a number of problems.

You wouldn’t think it, but chewing ice could even be a sign of a mental health condition in rare circumstances. 

Matthew Cooke, Associate Professor of Pediatric Dentistry and Anesthesiology, University of Pittsburgh Health Science, said parents and adults often ask if it is safe to chew ice.

Writing in The Conversation, he said: “No matter the cause, it’s a habit worth breaking. 

“Chewing ice is bad for your oral health, and if you’re unlucky, it may eventually cost you or your parents an expensive trip to the dentist or orthodontist.”

Chewing ice can cause cracks in the enamel of the teeth, Prof Cooke said, which can make your teeth more sensitive.

It could also fracture or break parts of the tooth, causing a hole that could lead to tooth decay.

People who have fillings, crowns, veneers, use braces or a retainer are more prone to tooth damage if they chew ice.

“Depending on the severity of the problem, the repair may require anything from a simple filling to a root canal – a more serious procedure requiring anesthesia,” Prof Cooke said.

Chewing ice could could be a sign of a mental health condition in rare circumstances.
Chewing ice could be a sign of a mental health condition in rare circumstances.
Getty Images/iStockphoto

When someone can’t stop compulsively eating ice, it’s known as “pagophagia”.

Pagophagia can be the warning sign of a health condition, Healthline explains. 

It’s sometimes seen in people with iron deficiency anemia, when the blood does not have enough healthy red blood cells.

Scientists do not know why, but it’s theorized crunching ice is a symptom reliever, sending more oxygen to the brain in those suffering symptoms like fatigue. 

Pagophagia can also be the result of pica – an eating disorder which compels people to eat things that are not considered food, such as ice, dirt, dust or hair. 

Eating disorder charity Beat says: “For a diagnosis of pica, the behaviour must be present for at least one month, not part of a cultural practice, and developmentally inappropriate.

“It may be more likely to occur alongside pregnancy, iron deficiency anemia, autism, intellectual developmental disorders, depression, OCD and schizophrenia.”

Woman bites ice
Chewing ice can cause cracks in the enamel of the teeth which can make your teeth more sensitive.
Getty Images/View Stock RF

How can you stop eating ice?

There are several ways to kick this habit, says Prof Cooke.

He suggests:

  1. Melt cubes in your mouth: Instead of crunching ice cubes, try holding them in your mouth and letting them melt. The satisfying cool sensation and refreshment will last longer. And it won’t damage your teeth or gums.
  2. Stop consuming ice: You can also skip the ice altogether. If it’s not in your glass, there’s no temptation. In addition to preventing damage to your teeth, you may also avoid the bacteria that can linger in icemakers.
  3. Consider softer alternatives: Replacing regular cubes with softer types of ice, such as shaved ice, may help. Try to limit or avoid flavored soft ices, however, because they have lots of sugar, which is bad for your teeth.
  4. Chomp on something healthier: Eating raw carrots, sliced apples or other crisp fruits and vegetables could help. Those foods can satisfy the craving to crunch, while stimulating the flow of saliva, which protects your mouth. The fibrous material may also help keep your teeth clean.

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