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Chewing Ice May Lead to a Host of Dental Problems

With temperatures heating up, an ice-cold drink is highly appealing to most patients. However, what happens to patients who chew the ice once their refreshing drink is gone?

While many are familiar with pica—a condition where individuals crave non-nutritional items like dirt or paper—fewer know about its subtype, pagophagia, characterized by compulsive ice chewing. This behavior is linked to iron deficiency, though the connection remains unclear.

According to a USA Today article, most ice chewers don’t have pagophagia. They might chew ice for oral stimulation, to soothe oral inflammation and combat dry mouth, or as a smoking cessation tool. Stress and anxiety can also trigger this habit. Many people chew ice mindlessly, enjoying its cooling sensation and crunch. Over time, this can develop into a hard-to-break habit.

Misconceptions About Ice Chewing Benefits

Some believe chewing ice can enhance cognitive performance, a notion stemming from a 2014 study suggesting increased blood flow to the brain. However, these findings lack robust support. The alertness might simply result from the ice’s cold properties, which can be achieved by sucking rather than chewing.

Regardless of the reasons behind it, chewing ice is harmful to teeth. It can cause fractures, painful and costly repairs, and potentially lead to tooth extraction and implants. The cold temperature of ice can also affect existing dental work, causing sensitivity due to different expansion and contraction rates compared to natural teeth.

Breaking the Habit: Tips and Alternatives

To break the ice-chewing habit, experts recommend drinking cold beverages without ice or letting ice melt until softer. Using a straw can prevent ice from entering the mouth. For those seeking crunch, raw carrots or celery are safer alternatives. If the habit stems from stress or anxiety, consulting a mental health professional can be beneficial. Dental consultations can also debunk perceived benefits, reinforcing that the risks outweigh the enjoyment.

Chewing ice might seem harmless, but its risks to dental health are significant. Click here to read more.

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