Is It Actually Bad to Munch on Ice?

We all have that friend or coworker who loves to crunch on ice cubes as they go about their business. (Or maybe that friend or coworker is you.)

Ice chewers can rattle off plenty of reasons for why they enjoy munching on ice, from relieving stress to cooling down or trying to break a cigarette habit.

Meanwhile, folks who don’t have an ice chewing habit may rattle off plenty of reasons for why it’s a bad idea. (Does the admonition, “You’re going to chip a tooth!” sound familiar?)

A quick notice! We hope you enjoy this blog, but please remember, it should NOT take the place of advice and consultation from a qualified dental professional (like the team at Rifkin Dental!). Please don't use content on the internet to self-diagnose — see your dental professional for regular check-ups and if you suspect you might have a chronic or acute dental issue.

This brings us to the million-dollar question: In the battle of ice chewers versus ice chewing abstainers, who is actually right?

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We hate to break it to the ice chewing camp, but it generally isn’t a good idea to munch on ice. Need some convincing? Here’s a look at why people might chew ice in the first place, how the habit can impact your dental wellbeing, and how to break the habit for better oral health.

Why Do People Chew Ice?

Everyone who chomps ice on a regular basis has their own reasons for doing so. Some of the most common explanations for ice chewing include:

  • Relief from dry mouth
  • Stress relief
  • Boredom
  • Using ice chewing to replace smoking cigarettes or snacking
  • Attempting to relieve nausea, especially during pregnancy
  • Trying to cool down on a hot day
  • Compulsive habit
  • Iron deficiency anemia, which may trigger obsessive cravings for ice

No matter the reason for chomping on ice, this habit can lead to a number of negative consequences for our teeth.

How Does Ice Chewing Impact Oral Health?

Now that we understand why people might chew ice, let’s get to the heart of the ice chewing debate.

The fact of the matter is that chomping on ice can jeopardize our oral health in a number of ways. For example, ice chewing increases the risk of:

  • Cracked or chipped teeth
  • Damage to tooth enamel
  • Tears or other damage to the gums
  • Damage to dental restorations such as fillings and crowns
  • Tooth sensitivity to hot and cold foods or beverages (as a result of tooth enamel damage)
  • Cavities (due to enamel damage)
  • Sore jaw muscles

“But wait!,” the ice chewer might say. “I haven’t experienced any of these side effects!”

That may be true; after all, it’s fairly unlikely that one ice chewing session will lead to all these cascading effects. But keep up the habit, and it’s all but guaranteed that you’ll experience negative consequences for your oral health.

What to Do If You’re a Chronic Ice Chewer

If you frequently chew on ice cubes, it’s important to address the habit before it causes damage to your teeth or gums. Here are a few strategies for doing just that:

  • If your ice chewing is the result of an intense craving that feels out of control, it’s probably a good idea to ask your doctor about iron deficiency anemia.

  • If you feel that your habit arises from a psychological compulsion or because you’re struggling to quit using nicotine, it may be time to chat with a therapist.

  • If you chew ice as a means of relieving a dry mouth, then talk to your dentist about other ways to soothe dry mouth.

  • If your ice chewing habit is the result of boredom or the quest for refreshment on a hot day, then a simple change in habits is in order. Rewire your brain by reaching for a cold drink or crunchy foods (such as carrots, celery, or apple slices) in lieu of ice.

Breaking a habit of munching on ice may take some time or feel uncomfortable at first. But ditching the ice chewing habit is essential if you want to avoid oral health issues over the long term.