Almost everyone knows someone who is addicted to chewing ice. They crunch on ice cubes all day long. They get up in the middle of the night to chew ice. They have favorite ice cube trays and go out of their way to get ice from specific places. They literally go crazy if they can’t get ice. Maybe you’re one of them.
Ice chewing or pagophagia falls under a group of medical conditions commonly referred to as pica. People with pica have a compulsive desire to eat things that have no nutritional value, such as ice or cornstarch, or even things that aren’t food at all, like clay, dirt, chalk, or paint chips. Compared with gnawing on pencil erasers or peeling the paint off the baseboards, chewing on a little ice doesn’t seem all that bad, does it? Nonetheless, it can signal a medical problem.
As with other forms of pica, the compulsion to chew ice is often a sign of severe iron deficiency. A person should have at least 8 to 18 milligrams of iron in their diet daily. Studies have found that those who have this level of iron are less likely to have a craving for ice. Those who have low iron are often found to be munching on ice. However, it is not sure why the low iron makes a person crave ice. Many studies have suggested that the ice may help to reduce tongue swelling and burning which are often associated with low iron levels.
Another group of people that are at high risk of iron and other nutrient deficiencies are those who have had gastric bypass surgery. Because the size of the stomach is so drastically reduced by this surgery, patients can eat only very small amounts of food, which obviously limits the amount of nutrients they can take in. Plus, their ability to digest food and absorb nutrients is greatly impaired.
Furthermore, there are many people who eat ice as a way to keep from eating other foods in an effort to lose weight. The person will eat the ice in between meals as a way to suppress the appetite. However, there have been no studies that show this technique actually helps in losing weight.
And in some individuals, pica is a sign of emotional problems, such as stress, obsessive-compulsive disorder or a developmental disorder.
Whatever the underlying cause for this disorder, there are several issues that ought to be considered. Believe it or not, chewing on ice can do serious damage to your teeth, and it’s important for you to understand why so you’ll think twice before chomping down on a nice cold piece of ice.
Chewing ice hammers teeth
With good oral hygiene and proper dental care, your teeth, which are made of enamel and dentin, should last a lifetime. But, according to OralAnswers.com, when you chew on ice, you’re putting a great deal of pressure on your teeth and are at risk of wearing down the enamel, which can cause cracks or chips. When the enamel is chipped and dentin is exposed, your teeth will weaken and you may experience sensitivity.
Even if you can’t see the damage, chewing ice can:
Wear down tooth enamel
Increase sensitivity to hot and cold foods
Make teeth more vulnerable to decay.
Plus, you run the risk of damaging dental work you’ve had done like veneers and fillings. That could mean a lot of pain—in your mouth and your wallet.
It’s a dangerous cycle
When you chew ice, you’re creating a repetitive hot and cold cycle in your mouth, which can cause small cracks in the enamel. Not only will this weaken your teeth, but it could also cause serious problems with any fillings you may have. According to OralAnswers.com, a filling may expand faster than the tooth when exposed to hot and cold temperatures, which can shorten the life of the filling.
It can hurt your gums
Bits of ice can be sharp, and you run the risk of puncturing your gums when you chew on them. Consider carrying sugar-free gum around so you’ll have something else to chew instead of ice.
Those who are addicted to chewing ice will find that their bodies can suffer nutritional problems. Many people who do nothing but eating ice are often malnourished and have other health related issues.
This is one danger of eating ice that many people may not take seriously, but eating ice really can have some social effects on the people who do it. Many people do not like to go places with or sit near someone who constantly chewing or eating ice, so it could affect just how many friends you have.
What Should You Do If You Are A Compulsive Ice Chewer?
For those who find that they are chewing ice constantly and many times without thinking, chances are they have low iron. This will require seeing the doctor in order to get this tested and to figure out the best method to solve this issue. Many people find that once they correct the iron deficiency, the craving for ice goes away.
If your habit becomes an obsession, it is important to take care of this in order to avoid it interfering with your life. This will require the help of a medical professional who knows what could be signals of this type of compulsive behavior and how to treat it.