Why Chewing Ice Can Be
Trouble for Your Teeth and Health

Are you an ice chewer? Do you fill your drink glass with ice so you can sip your beverage now and crunch away later? You may think that chewing ice is no big deal, but a habit of ice chewing can become a very big deal. You can cause damage to your teeth and even your jaw, which could be painful later. Habitual ice crunching can also be a symptom of certain health problems, from chronic dry mouth to iron deficiency anemia. 

Hentscher-Johnson Orthodontics understands the serious damage chewing ice can cause to your teeth. That damage can be even worse for your braces. We also know it can signal more serious health issues. If you chew ice regularly, you need to understand why it’s a habit you need to break and the underlying causes if you find you can’t stop.

Chewing Ice Can Hurt Your Teeth and Jaw

Your teeth are made up of pulp in the center, which holds the nerves and blood vessels, and enamel on the outside. The hard outer shell of enamal protects the pulp, which keeps the tooth alive. Damaging the enamel can endanger the pulp and lead to tooth loss if the tooth dies. 

Your enamel is strong, but it’s really not made to take the constant impact chewing ice produces. Repeated impacts from the hard ice can damage your enamel over time, leading to cracks, chips and even breaks in the tooth. This can expose the pulp and lead to pain, infection, and even death of the tooth, which results in tooth loss. 

It’s not just your teeth that absorb the constant impacts from chewing ice. Your jaw also takes on that excessive pressure. Over time, this can lead to jaw pain and TMJ disorder, which is pain and inflammation of the temporomandibular joint that connects the upper and lower jaws. 

The bottom line is that chewing ice can severely damage your teeth and jaw, and you should avoid chewing ice altogether.

Chewing Ice Can Damage Braces or Invisalign

Chewing ice is a big no-no when it comes to braces and Invisalign treatment. The hard impacts from the ice can break wires and pop off brackets if you wear braces. Crunching ice while wearing Invisalign can damage the clear aligners and render them useless to your treatment. Either of these scenarios will result in costly repairs and replacements. 

We strongly recommend you avoid chewing ice if you are undergoing orthodontic treatment with braces or Invisalign.

Chewing Ice Can Signal Serious Health Issues

Some people chew ice because they crave it. This can be a signal for other health issues. In some cases, chewing ice is used as a substitute for stress relief or to help the person lose weight (by chewing ice instead of food). Some use it to combat dry mouth (xerostomia), which can occur as a result of smoking, drinking, not drinking enough water, or because of side effects from certain medications or treatments. 

Absent of these issues, a craving to chew ice can signal a serious condition called iron deficiency anemia. This is when your body lacks enough iron to produce hemoglobin properly — the substance that includes the red blood cells that carry oxygen to your organs. This can lead to fatigue, sometimes severe, and eventually can damage the organs because they lack the oxygen to function properly. 

Iron deficiency anemia can happen in patients with gastrointestinal issues, a low-iron diet, or women who have menstruation issues. Patients who suspect they have iron deficiency anemia should talk to their doctor as soon as possible. Treatments can be as simple as a change of diet or addition of an iron supplement, or it could include IV iron infusions, depending on the severity of the anemia.

How to Stop Crunching Ice

Ice chewing may be a tough habit to break, but it’s one that should be broken before your teeth end up broken instead. It can also be caused by a serious medical condition, so if you can’t stop chewing ice, you should speak to your doctor right away. 

Hentscher-Johnson Orthodontics understands the destruction ice chewing can cause, and how difficult it can be to break the habit. We suggest you try melting the ice in your mouth slowly instead of chewing it. If you have Invisalign, you can remove your clear aligners and crunch something healthier, like apples or carrots. Just be sure to brush your teeth and rinse your aligners before you put them back in! 

Hentscher-Johnson Orthodontics is here to help you if you’re ready to break your ice-crunching habit. If you’re in the Columbia, IL, or Waterloo, IL, area, schedule a virtual consultation to get started with us. We’re here to help!

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