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Love Chewing Ice? Why You Should Stop, AND See Your Doctor Promptly

Chewing ice can harm your teeth, and may be a sign of iron deficiency anemia.

If you love chewing ice, you’re not alone. Many people find that chewing ice helps them to deal with stress, ease the effects of dry mouth (xerostomia), lose weight, or stop smoking. Chewing ice might seem to be an acceptable coping method; after all, it provides a small amount of hydration, won’t add calories, and doesn’t contain sugar or acid-forming substances that can harm teeth. However, it can harm your teeth in other ways, and ice cravings may also be a symptom of a more serious health issue.

How can chewing ice hurt my teeth?

Your tooth enamel is not strong enough to withstand ice’s brittle texture and extremely cold temperature. Even if your teeth themselves are healthy and strong, your ice-chewing habit—whether you crunch on cubes or crushed ice—can cause tiny cracks in the enamel that covers the teeth. Over time, these cracks can grow and expose the underlying dentinal tubules, resulting in sensitive teeth. In extreme cases, biting and chewing ice could cause your teeth to fracture.

Why do I love chewing ice? Is it a sign of a more serious health issue?

It may be. If you can’t stop chewing ice, you may have a condition generally known as pica. Those with this condition experience desires to eat items with no nutritional value, even non-food items. The type of pica specific to cravings for ice is known as pagophagia, which is frequently a symptom of iron deficiency anemia.

Why do iron deficiency sufferers crave ice?

Studies suggest that chewing ice may give an energy boost to iron deficiency sufferers, but it's important to see your doctor if you can't stop chewing ice. If your system is deficient in iron, you may find that you’re often tired and fatigued. This occurs because your body cannot produce sufficient amounts of hemoglobin, a blood protein molecule that carries oxygen from your lungs to tissues in the rest of your body, and carbon dioxide from the tissues back to the lungs. Studies suggest that chewing ice increases your alertness by causing small changes in your vascular system.

Who is at risk for iron deficiency anemia?

People with certain gastrointestinal conditions and diseases, people with diets low in iron, and certain groups of women—especially menstruating and pregnant women—are at the highest risk of developing iron deficiency anemia. You can read more details about high-risk individuals, as well as about other symptoms of iron deficiency, in this article.

What should I do if I believe I have iron deficiency anemia?

The most important thing you can do is to discuss your symptoms with your doctor, who can run tests and prescribe solutions. These may include changes to your diet, iron supplements, or other forms of treatment. Don’t begin taking iron supplements without consulting your doctor. Taken improperly, they can cause unpleasant gastrointestinal side effects.