Is chewing ice bad for your teeth?

Is chewing ice bad for your teeth? What are the potential side effects of chewing ice, and what to do if you damage your teeth while chewing ice? Our Edmonton dentists answer these questions and more in today's post. 

Chewing Ice & Our Teeth

Many of us pluck a nice, cold ice cube from the tray to add to our drink on a hot summer day or don't hesitate to apply an ice pack to reduce pain or swelling. That said, what about chewing ice?

Some people tend to take an extra ice cube to chew on, but any dentist will tell you this is one habit you should break, as it's bad for your teeth. 

Why do people chew ice?

People chew ice for a number of reasons. While some occasionally suck or chew ice as a way to cool down on a hot summer day, others may become addicted to the point that it can interfere with their daily lives. 

If persistent eating or chewing of ice lasts for longer than a month, and is clinically impacting your life, it may be diagnosed as a form of pagophagia or pica, a type of mental health condition where people crave and eat non-nutritive items such as ice, paper, sand, hair or dirt. 

A craving to chew ice or drink ice-cold drinks may also point to a more serious underlying health condition, such as iron deficiency, with or without anemia. It's unclear why this condition is associated with the habit. In any case, a doctor may be able to help. 

Why is chewing ice bad for your teeth?

The reason is that ice is too hard for our teeth to chew safely and can result in:

  • Cracks and chips
  • Fractures
  • Cracked or damaged tooth enamel 
  • Damaged tooth nerves due to exposure to cold temperatures
  • Dental emergencies

Keep in mind that this goes for individuals of all ages, whether they have natural teeth or fillings, crowns or veneers. 

These incidents can occur whether an individual is eating ice at the time or whether ice chewing has gradually damaged the teeth and enamel, and a tooth breaks as the person bites into another piece of food. 

Is chewing soft ice bad for your teeth?

A soft, chewable type of ice has started to become more available to those with chronic ice chewing habits.

Similar to a shaved ice, this type of ice is safe to chew, but it's important to verify the type of ice you'll be putting in your mouth before chewing. Regardless of the type of ice, our dentists in Edmonton still advice quitting the habit entirely.

Potential Long-Term Damage From Chewing Ice 

While regularly chewing ice can leave you at risk for sudden chips or fractures in a tooth or enamel erosion, there is other potential long-term damage you should beware of.

These side effects include tiny surface cracks that worsen over time, leading to more serious problems (similar to a chip from a stone in a car windshield) that often go unnoticed since they are so subtle. 

That small crack could grow, until one day a piece of tooth breaks off when you're enjoying a soft, sticky treat - such as your favourite snack while watching a movie. 

What can I chew instead of ice?

Similar to breaking any other bad habit, quitting ice chewing will take willpower and effort - and likely replacing this action with another behaviour. Because chewing ice is a habit that can result in fractures or chips in teeth at any time, we recommend quitting cold turkey. 

You might consider replacing ice with something that won't damage your teeth. While hard, sugary candy is off the list, sugar-free gum is a good option if you're craving something to chew on. 

While sugar-free gum doesn't offer a satisfying crunch, a mint-flavoured piece of this treat will bring a "cool" sensation and fresh flavour to your mouth. Plus, it's safe for your teeth.

For a crunchier option, keep baby carrots or crisp apples on hand. 

What if I damage my teeth while chewing ice?

Tooth damage due to ice chewing can be painful and distressing. Our Edmonton dentists are always here to treat dental emergencies, including those that occur as a result of tooth damage due to ice chewing.

If you have a chip, crack or fracture in a tooth, nerve or enamel damage, or another painful symptom that you are concerned about, we can assess and repair the damage with appropriate treatment, whether a filling, root canal or other option. 

We may also be able to offer tips and tricks for breaking the habit, and give guidance and advice on oral health habits to protect your teeth and mouth.  

Do you have a chip, fracture or crack in your tooth due to ice chewing? Contact our Edmonton dentists right away. We can examine the problem and recommend treatment options.

Have a dental emergency in Edmonton? We're here on weekends and after hours to help.

Dental emergencies always happen when you least expect them. Our friendly and experienced dental team is on call to assist you when you need us most.

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