Chewing Ice Puts Teeth at Risk

YOU’VE PROBABLY HEARD before that it’s bad to chew ice, but do you know why that is? Let’s take a closer look at the damage ice can do to teeth and why many people want to chew ice in the first place.

Pagophagia: Compulsive Ice Eating

Ice eating actually has a scientific name: pagophagia. It isn’t just a bad habit; it can actually indicate an eating disorder called pica, which involves the compulsion to eat things that aren’t food and have zero nutritional value, including hair, dirt, clay, and even ice. A nutritional deficiency can cause pica.

Ice Eating and Iron Deficiency Anemia

Studies in recent years suggest a connection between compulsively eating ice and iron deficiency anemia, a condition 20 percent of women (50 percent of pregnant women) and 3 percent of men experience.

Iron levels might seem like an odd thing to be linked to an ice eating habit, considering that there is no iron in ice, but it actually makes a lot of sense. Red blood cells need iron to carry oxygen throughout the body effectively. Someone who is iron deficient is therefore not getting as much oxygen to their brain. Eating ice stimulates blood flow to the head (and the brain), which gives a temporary boost to alertness and clarity of thought.

The Effects of Ice on Teeth and Gums

As strong as human teeth are and as hard as tooth enamel is, teeth are not meant to crunch and grind ice cubes (in any quantity or texture). The problem isn’t merely that ice is hard but that it’s so cold. When our teeth experience extreme temperature changes, the enamel expands and contracts, causing tiny cracks and weakening the overall structure — just like what happens to pavement in places where it snows.

Obviously weakened enamel can lead to other problems like tooth sensitivity and greater vulnerability to decay, and ice isn’t good for gum tissue either. It’s so cold that it can have a numbing effect while eating it, which might mean you don’t notice an injury to the gum tissue. Ice can even chip or break teeth as well.

Tips for Breaking an Ice Eating Habit

The most important step to take to break an ice eating habit is to discover the cause. For those who experience pagophagia as a symptom of iron deficiency, the ice cravings may go away after taking iron supplements, and the habit may stop on its own. For those who struggle with pica, there are a variety of interventions available, including medication and therapy.

If it’s not specifically the ice you crave but the crunch, try replacing ice with chunks of apple or baby carrots. Conversely, if it’s more about the ice than the crunch, try letting pieces of ice melt on your tongue like a piece of hard candy instead of chewing them.

Ask Dental Professionals for Help

Anyone who struggles with an ice chewing habit should feel free to discuss it with their dentist, as well as their general physician. It’s important to discover the cause, treat any existing damage to the teeth and gums, and prevent additional damage by working to kick the habit.

Let’s leave those ice chewing days behind!

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.
The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.
Posted in Uncategorized
New Patient Offer
Contact Us





    View our privacy policy


    Harry B.

    Dr. Behner and his staff and just the best. They are worth my families 1-hour drive!

    —Harry B.

    Greg M.

    Dr. Behner runs a fantastic and very professional practice. His Dental Hygienist did a wonderful and pain-free cleaning. Always an excellent experience!

    —Greg M.

    Pat S.

    Dr's Behner and Pence provide an outstanding service and I am glad they are my dentist. Their staff is awesome also.

    —Pat S.

    Jeanie M.

    I know I need some extra pats and such to get me ready, and they always have been there to smile and reassure me! It’s extremely embarrassing to have so much fear but they are there not judging by comforting me!

    —Jeanie M.

    Leslee D.

    I had put off having dental work because of anxiety. I’m so glad to have been referred to Dr. Behner many years ago. Being able to have IV sedation enabled me to get the work done that was needed. Dr. Behner and his staff are so understanding. My bite is better due to crowns and I’m no longer in pain. Thank you, Dr. Behner. I no longer “dread” the dentist.

    —Leslee D.

    Cindy M.

    My experince with Dr. Behner and staff seriously changed my life. I’m 52, and feared the dentist since childhood, after terrible visits. Over 5 years ago, I found Dr. Behner after doing an internet search for sedation dentistry. At my first visit, even before my sedation appt., I knew I had found my dentist for life. The atmosphere, the staff, and the dentist, all give a sense of comfort and peace. I’ve never once been afraid again, and actually look forward to my appointments!

    —Cindy M.

    Judy S.

    The entire staff is so kind and considerate that over the years my anxiety has diminished. They are my "dental family". Just had an extraction and cannot imagine a better dentist!

    —Judy S.


    If you are searching for an Indianapolis dentist to provide cosmetic dentistry, sedation dentistry, or dental implants, Dr. E. Dale Behner is here for you! Call today to schedule an appointment if you are in the area, including Fishers and Carmel. Dental Care Today PC - E. Dale Behner DDS
    9744 Lantern Rd
    Fishers, IN 46037
    Call: 317-842-2337317-842-2337
    Write a Review
    Review Us on Google Review Us on Facebook Review Us on Angies List
    Connect With Us
    Best Dentists in Indianapolis
    Top 10 dentists in Fishers, IN
    Dr. Elton D. Behner, DDS has been awarded as a top Dentistry practice with some of Fishers's best Dentists.
    Verified by
    NagiosCheckValue - Do not remove please