Is Chewing Ice Bad For Your Teeth?

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Medically reviewed by Othman Lahmaydi, RDH

There’s nothing as refreshing as scraping up a spoonful of ice on a hot summer day. The small cubes clicking around your glass can make your thirst go away. And when you’re sick, sucking on ice cubes or a crunchy cup of ice can make you feel refreshed. So, what is it about ice that’s harmful to you?

While tooth enamel is the hardest part of your body, chewing ice can damage it. Enamel is the first line of defense against any dental problems, and munching on ice erodes that defense. Even if you are not an addict, all it takes is a bite with the wrong angle to chip your teeth. 

Craving ice might be an eating disorder or may cause health problems. Often the health condition remains undiagnosed. All it takes is a visit to your dentist to know what harm ice munching has done to your dental health. You can still chew ice sometimes if you really like it, but it’s best to try and cut this habit out for long-term oral health.

Is Chewing Ice Bad For My Teeth?

Young attractive woman holds clear glass and pours ice cubes

While it is increasingly common for someone to chew ice mindlessly, chewing ice is bad for teeth. Oral implants and restorative appliances can play a crucial role in helping individuals maintain their smiles.

However, munching on ice can damage these appliances. Braces can be dislodged, and implants can be cracked when someone chews on ice cubes regularly.

Another effect of chewing on ice is chipped teeth. All it takes is a wrong angle or wrong pressure, and it will need an emergency visit to the dentist at odd hours.

If you have a cracked or chipped tooth, try to save the remnants of the tooth in a bag of milk and schedule an appointment with your dentist. Your timely action can protect you from negative health repercussions. 

And for the record, while all ice is hard, if you absolutely don’t want to consider stopping, you could consider a fancy ice-making machine like the GE Profile Opal Countertop Nugget Ice Maker (on Amazon) that will make ice pellets (aka “Sonic Ice”) which is slightly softer and easier to chew. The official advice here is to not chew ice at all though!

How Does Chewing Ice Affect Tooth Enamel?

While enamel is the hardest substance in your body, chewing ice can break down the enamel over a prolonged period. Once the enamel is eroded away, you might be susceptible to acid attacks, tooth decay, and sensitivity. Chewing ice may cause other long-term health problems that you’re unaware of.

  • Munching on ice might not have health effects like other addictions, but it will leave a negative and long-lasting impact on your body. One of the most common side effects of ice chewing is erosion of enamel. 
  • Often when your enamel is eroded, your dental nerves and roots are exposed. The teeth can become sensitive to hot or cold substances in this situation. Sometimes patients also have sensitivity towards sweet and sour.
  • Another side effect of chewing on ice is the risk of cavities. When the enamel is not protecting your teeth, the acid produced from food can cause teeth erosion and root exposure.
  • If you use any dental solutions like crowns, dental fillings, or root canal treatment, munching on ice can cause them to break down. You’ll need to either replace them or visit a dentist to know the exposure.

How To Stop Chewing Ice

Chewing ice during the summer months can be a common habit for most individuals. However, like other hard foods, it can also cause oral damage.

So, munching on ice cubes like snacks might not be a good choice. Unfortunately, it’s not something that a person can stop overnight. Here are some pointers on how to stop chewing ice.

  • Skip The Temptation – This is easier said than done, but small habits can help remove the temptation. For example, skip the ice when you’re ordering drinks in a bar. If you’re in a restaurant, you can also ask the sommelier not to send any ice your way. 
  • Don’t Chew, Wait – Well, while it sounds dumb, this is something you can try to avoid the cold cubes. Instead of chewing the block of ice, swipe it like candy, and let it melt. You’ll still get the refreshment, but you’ll not feel the after-effects of chewing a block of ice.
  • Use Slush – Crushing the ice and creating a slushy drink is also a solution that you can try. Even shaved or soft ice can be a great solution. What’s more, they’ll melt when you put them in your mouth, so no harm in chewing.
  • Crunching Alternatives – Most of the time, people chew ice because of the cold feeling and the crunchiness. If you can get the same crunchy feeling from chewing on something else, you’ll be able to trick your brain into replacing ice. Some common foods that you can try are carrots, apple slices, or cucumber. 
  • Underlying Cause – While the most common cause of chewing ice is just the innate desire to eat something cold and crunchy, munching on ice can also be caused by underlying health conditions. A craving to chew ice can be related to iron deficiency in the body. Speak to your doctor if you have an insatiable urge to chew or bite ice cubes.

Why Do People Crave Ice?

Craving ice can be just a compulsion, or it can be a sign of an undiagnosed health issue. Let’s take a look at the common reasons for craving ice.

  • Pica – An eating disorder that causes people to eat non-edible items like clay, dirt, ash, paper, or even ice. Pagophagia is a subcategory of Pica, where the patient eats snow, ice, or ice water.
  • Iron Deficiency – Iron deficiency causes anemia, which means your red blood cells don’t have enough oxygen in them. Generally, when your brain suffers from a shortage of oxygen, you may get an urge to chew on ice. Chewing on ice sends more blood to your brain, which increases the oxygen supply in the area.
  • Compulsive Disorder – Like smokers cannot live without a cigarette, some people feel compelled to munch on ice cubes. These individuals might feel like they cannot live without chewing ice and might need therapy to let go of this munching habit.

Chewing ice is a habit that can be broken with the proper process. The first step is to be aware of the situation, and the next step includes taking active measures to stop performing it consciously. It would be best to get your blood tested to ensure that you’re not suffering from iron deficiency.

Will Chewing Ice Affect My Dental Implants?

Young Asian woman with sensitive teeth and hand holding glass of cold water with ice

Yes, chewing ice will adversely affect your dental implants. Your teeth are not made to survive the wear and tear of chewing blocks of ice. Continuous and prolonged munching of ice can cause it to destroy your enamel.

While munching on ice has other health consequences, it can damage your dental crowns and fillings. It can also cause sore jaw and sensitivity.

Your teeth might also have minor fractures or cracks on the surface. Over time, these cracks will increase, straining your enamel and its ability to protect your teeth.

It might also cause chipping of your teeth or an extensive fracture that’ll need some cosmetic treatment. If you have dental implants or have undergone dental treatments, it is prudent to visit your dentist typically every six months unless otherwise directed

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