Most people don’t think about it. Instead, they’re purely enjoying the slight reprieve from the scorching temperatures. And although chewing on ice does offer a nice refreshing cool down, it’s actually doing more harm than good.
What may seem like a harmless habit is possibly doing major damage to your teeth, enamel, and gums. Damage that may end up costing you an expensive trip to the dentist. How is something as mindless as chewing ice so bad? Here’s some of the damage to your teeth caused by chewing ice.
Wears Down Enamel
The enamel on your teeth is a protective shield. It is your first line of defense against cavities and decay, and it protects from damage caused by daily chewing, biting, crunching, and grinding. Although enamel is an incredibly hard substance, it can still be worn down.
Chewing ice can weaken your tooth enamel and leave you prone to tooth sensitivity, dental chips and cracks, and cavities.
Damages Dental Fillings
If you’ve already had teeth repaired, chewing on ice can do further damage to existing fillings, crowns, and veneers. It’s common for dental fillings to be cracked or dislodged by eating hard items such as ice. The cold temperature of ice also causes the synthetic materials that makeup fillings to expand and contract over time. This causes fillings to break down and have to be refilled, which means another trip to the dentist.
Puts Your Gums at Risk
Your gums are sensitive tissue, to begin with, and chewing on ice only leaves them even more vulnerable to accidental cuts. Lots of times, ice can have sharp edges that can puncture your gum tissue and result in infection.
Causes Chips and Cracks
Your teeth are hard but not that hard. Unfortunately, your teeth cannot always bear the load of pressure placed on them when you bite down on ice. This can result in chips or cracks in your teeth. They can begin as minor fractures that may not seem to pose much of an issue or concern, but over time and with repeated ice chewing, those tiny fractures can develop into large fractures. Often, large fractures must be treated with the placement of a crown or, even worse, a root canal.
Ice Chewing Alternatives
Now that you know the serious damage ice can cause to your oral health let’s talk about some alternatives. Most of the time, chewing ice is a bad habit that you don’t even realize you’re doing. And, as with most bad habits, it can be difficult to stop. Fortunately, with a bit of persistence and awareness, you can drop the bad habit with these ice chewing alternatives.
1. Let it Melt
Instead of crunching your ice, let it melt in your mouth. Then, you’ll still be able to get the refreshing temperature cool down, just without the damage. Plus, the ice will last longer!
2. Have a Slushy
This will not only possibly bring back some childhood memories, but it will be a nice refreshing treat. Instead of hard ice cubes, opt for shaved ice or a slushy. It eliminates the temptation to chew by removing the “ice.”
3. Crunch Away on Fruits and Vegetables
If you’re an ice chewer because you like the crunching feeling, pick something that will still provide that feeling but won’t damage your teeth. Carrots and apples are great alternatives. They are nice and crisp, and they will stimulate saliva production, which acts as a natural mouthwash. Not to mention, they’re a healthy snack, too!
Determine If There Is An Underlying Cause
If you’re a habitual ice chewer, there might be an underlying cause as to why you can’t stop. Iron deficiency is a common nutritional deficiency associated with ice chewing. If you suffer from low iron or are anemic, you don’t have enough iron and oxygen in your blood, or you don’t have enough red blood cells to transport those chemicals all over your body.
One theory is that hard water contains iron, so your body is trying to get additional iron by chewing ice. It’s also believed that many chew ice to soothe oral inflammation caused by iron deficiency.
It’s important to determine any underlying cause if you just can’t stop chewing on ice. If it is discovered that your ice chewing is related to another medical condition, that reason can be treated, which should then help with your ice chewing habit.
If you find yourself unable to stop chewing ice or already have teeth damage due to the bad oral habit, contact your dentist for assistance. Together, you can devise a dental plan to keep your teeth and smile happy and healthy!