Chewing Ice: Is it Bad for Your Teeth?
Chewing ice is a common habit, but it’s also one you should break. Why is chewing ice bad for your teeth? It might seem like an innocent habit that satisfies the need to crunch on something, but the truth is that regularly chomping down on ice could do real damage to your mouth.
Why People Chew Ice
Some people start chewing ice as an alternative to mindless snacking. Other people find the sensation of chewing crunchy things relaxing or feel it relieves stress. For others, it’s a way to stay hydrated throughout the day. There are even some studies that indicate the craving for chewing ice may be a sign of anemia. However, eating ice can become a bad habit or even a compulsion, and the impact on your teeth and gums can be pretty terrible. So what makes chewing ice bad for teeth?
How Is Chewing Ice Bad for Teeth?
Since ice is just frozen water, a lot of people think chewing on ice is harmless. So, exactly how is chewing ice bad for your teeth? Ice is just frozen water, but it’s also really hard! In fact, ice is hard enough that the American Dental Association warns against it, just like chewing hard candy and popcorn kernels. Let’s look at why this habit is harmful and learn what it can do to your teeth and gums. How is chewing ice bad for teeth? Below are some examples of negative outcomes:
Damage to tooth enamel
Chewing ice can both weaken and damage the enamel on your teeth. Since your tooth enamel is responsible for protecting the other vulnerable structures of your teeth, this can put the health of your teeth at risk. When your enamel is compromised, you’re more prone to tooth decay, infections, gum disease, and more.
Cracked or chipped teeth
When two hard surfaces are pushed against each other, one will eventually break. Most of the time, the ice breaks first… but not always. In that case, you could end up with a chipped, cracked, or fractured tooth. This kind of damage leaves your teeth vulnerable to decay, infection, and increased sensitivity. If you break a tooth eating ice, it will require fixing.
Damage to your gums
Your gums are significantly softer than ice, and chewing ice puts excessive pressure on your gums. Ice can be sharp, so you could also tear your gums if you’re not careful. You could end up with receding, damaged, or bleeding gums, exposing the root of your tooth. This causes increased sensitivity and vulnerability to a variety of tooth problems.
Damage to oral restorations
If you’re like most people, you’ve had some dental work done. Whether you have fillings, crowns, veneers, or other dental work, eating ice is bad for your teeth and any restorations used to fix them. You could break or dislodge these types of oral restorations, resulting in a lot of pain and a big dental bill.
Ruined orthodontic appliances
Speaking of expensive problems, eating ice is bad for your teeth and orthodontic appliances like braces, expanders, retainers, and more. You could break or dislodge the wires, brackets, or plastic portions of the appliances. That can hurt, both physically and once you get the bill.
Experience jaw pain
Chewing repeatedly on anything really hard can cause temporary soreness in your jaw. Over time, you could experience ongoing jaw pain, too.
How to Quit Chewing Ice
So, is chewing ice bad for your teeth? Yes, clearly it can cause a variety of problems that could impact your dental health and your wallet. If chewing ice is a bad habit for you or someone you love, it’s important to try to break the habit. Luckily, there are several things you can try to quit chewing ice.
- Use a straw. Straws can help you avoid the ice in your glass, so you’re not tempted to chew on it.
- Suck on ice rather than chewing it. If you’re chomping on ice to stay hydrated or cool, try sucking on the ice cubes and letting them melt in your mouth instead.
- Replace ice cubes with softer versions of ice. Shaved ice (unflavored!) is a great alternative to ice cubes. Chewing this type of ice shouldn’t harm your teeth or gums like ice cubes would. Crushed ice is also a better choice than cubes, but still not ideal as some of the pieces can be rather large.
- Replace ice with healthy snacks. If you’re chewing ice to stave off hunger, try having a crunchy, healthy snack instead. Thinly sliced raw carrots, raw celery, jicama, apple slices, or iceberg lettuce might provide that same crunchy satisfaction, plus nutrition.
- Skip ice altogether. If all else fails, it might be time to just skip ice for a while. Keep water in the fridge if you want it cold.
See Your Dentist Regularly to Prevent and Repair Damage
Now that you know how chewing ice cubes can damage your mouth, you don’t need to ask, “Is chewing ice bad for your teeth?” But you can ensure you’re doing everything you can to prevent and repair any damage from eating ice. That starts with regular daily oral hygiene, including brushing your teeth twice per day for two minutes at a time. You also need to floss daily and drink plenty of water (no ice necessary!).
From there, see your dentist as often as necessary—at least every six months—to ensure you get regular checkups and cleanings. Your dentist will see if you’ve damaged your teeth by chewing ice and repair the damage quickly to help prevent further problems. If you think you’ve caused damage to your mouth chewing ice, see your dentist right away. To learn more about how to protect your mouth and your overall health, order your copy of If Your Mouth Could Talk.