If you want to use your teeth as ice breakers, they should be reserved for smiling only—not for chewing ice! Crunching ice in your mouth is one of the worst things you can do to your teeth.
A severe form of ice chewing has even earned its own name—pagophagia—which is a form of pica disorder. Chewing ice can chip and crack your teeth, weaken tooth enamel and lead to cavities, create pain in the jaw, and ruin orthodontic appliances.
Fillings, crowns, and dentures can also be severely damaged by chewing ice.
Getting to the Root of the Issue
Ice chewing can be a symptom of emotional problems such as stress or obsessive-compulsive disorder, but it can also be a sign of iron deficiency anemia and other physical problems. Medical science is not 100% sure why people with anemia seem compelled to chew ice, but researchers suspect that the coolness of the cubes may soothe oral inflammations that are often caused by iron deficiency.
Another theory holds that ice can have a “coffee-like” effect on people who feel compelled to chew it. Our bodies have a natural response to being subjected to cold water: to protect core functions and supply the brain with oxygen, blood vessels restrict.
It is believed that the cold jolt provided by chewing ice might push better-oxygenated blood to the brain, which would make people feel awake and focused. But maybe you just like to have something to chew on.
Whatever the reason you find yourself chomping on ice, it’s a habit you need to break.
Alternatives to Ice
If your ice-chewing problem isn’t caused by a mineral deficiency or extreme stress, but is simply something you enjoy doing, we suggest you consider replacing the ice with something that’s better for your teeth. If you like to crunch ice, try eating chips, apples, or carrots instead.
If the chewing motion is more your thing, start chewing sugar-free gum. In time, these alternatives should replace your habit of reaching for a cup of ice.