Ice is for chilling, not for chewing
Chewing on ice can be hard on your teeth and possibly your pocketbook! Restoring teeth that have been damaged by ice can become very costly in terms of pain and dental fees. In fact, some teeth have been fractured by ice severely enough that they have had to be removed.
What does chewing on ice say about you?
The need for ice chewing can be an incredibly addictive habit, and like any craving, difficult to kick. It can be especially hard for people who are satisfying a compulsive disorder involving the uncontrollable consumption of ice or iced drinks (called pagophagia).
From the world of medicine, we are now told that, for some people, the need to chew on ice may be an indicator of an iron deficiency called anemia. Although there is no iron in iced cubed water, research is showing that it can be a symptom of this underlying medical condition. A thoroughly medical evaluation can help determine if your ice chewing habit is the sign of nutritional deficiency.
On the flip side, we have a female patient who has abnormally high levels of iron in her blood and her blood tests are often mistaken for a male reading. Ironically, she is also highly addicted to chewing ice as a means of relieving the stresses of her high-pressured job. She buys a jumbo-sized cup of just ice from a nearby variety store on the way home from work everyday, insisting that this particular store serves the tastiest ice for miles around.
Despite our warnings, she continues this daily ritual and we continue to check her teeth for signs of fracture. When we asked her if she is starting to notice an increase in tooth sensitivity since she is starting to show some slight signs of gum recession she answered, “The cold doesn’t bother me anyways.”
We laughed, but ice chewing is no longer a laughing matter for people who have had to have a tooth heavily restored or removed because of breakage.
About dental fractures…
Teeth, although very hard, are also very brittle when subjected to forces like ice chewing. Think of a porcelain plate. It is very hard, but if you look closely, you will notice an array of tiny fractures running across it’s surface. This is what can happen to your teeth from constantly chewing ice. You may not notice it, but under our intense scrutiny and magnified dental lights, we can see all the tiny fractures running across the surfaces of your enamel. Fortunately, the underlying and supportive tissues of the teeth and surrounding structures provide a cushioning effect against biting forces. However, sometimes the resiliency of enamel is put to the test and it is usually just a matter of time before you chip a piece of enamel off , or worst case scenario, the big one hits and fractures your tooth beyond repair.
Even if you are just an occasional chewer of ice, all it takes is a bite with enough force and at just the right angle to fracture your tooth. While most teeth can be rebuilt using dental filling materials or crowns if the break is larger, some breaks are severe enough to cause a fracture the runs deep into the root of the tooth. When this happens, repair is almost impossible.
Can’t kick the habit?
If you insist on chewing ice or are finding it hard to stop the craving, perhaps you will consider allowing the ice to dissolve as your swish it around in your mouth. Be careful not to bang the cubes against your teeth by using too forceful of a swishing action. Another alternative is to switch to slushed ice or sugar-free chewing gum.
Ice chewing can appear to be a seemingly harmless habit, but from our side of the dental chair, we see the damage. Small fractures can turn into larger ones that can eventually cost you your tooth. Ice may be cheap, but the consequences can be very costly indeed!
Yours in Better Dental Health,
The Your Smile Dental Care Team