Pagophagia, or the compulsion to chew ice, is a relatively common phenomenon, albeit one that's not so commonly reported. It's especially common among pregnant women, and has, in some cases, been identified as a response to iron deficiency. Of course, many people also eat ice for the satisfying crunch, as a residual childhood habit, or even as a way to stave off cigarette cravings. Whatever the reason, numerous individuals are drawn to the habit—but is it bad to eat ice? Read on to see what a dentist—and the research—has to say.
Is It Bad to Eat Ice?
According to dentist Kevin Sands, DDS, whose clientele includes everyone from Emma Stone to Amber Rose, the question of whether it's bad to eat ice isn't as clear-cut as you may think. "It depends on what you means by 'eating,'" says Sands. "Chewing and crunching on ice is really bad for your teeth. It can wear the enamel over time or even crack a tooth. Plus, a lot of people are very sensitive to the extremely cold temperature." On the other hand, allowing ice to melt in your mouth isn't harmful for our teeth and may actually be good way to stay hydrated.
Be sure to use a toothpaste that supports enamel strength to fend off tooth sensitivity. Lebon's Le White Toothpaste, for example, contains green tea as a natural ingredient to strengthen teeth. "There are several treatments on the market for sensitive teeth but none are as long-lasting as green tea," say Stephanie and Richard Pallaci, founders of Lebon. "Green tea is an antioxidant promoting healthier, stronger teeth that help prevent bacterias that cause tooth decay and other periodontal diseases, as well as bone resorption. Controlling bacteria and lowering the acidity level, green tea can also play a key part in preventing cavities."
The Next Steps
The bottom line: It's not bad to eat ice if you're sucking on it or allowing it to melt, but it is bad to eat ice if you're chewing or breaking it with your teeth. The latter habit can lead to cracked teeth or injured gums.
What can be a larger issue is that the craving can potentially indicate an iron deficiency, so while the act of consuming ice isn't harmful in and of itself, consult your physician to see how you can potentially up your iron intake. Women who are expecting are especially prone to sudden ice cravings, so seek the advice of your doctor if this is a new development.
If your ice craving is about temperature, try drinking ice water through a straw or a narrow-necked water bottle so you're less tempted to chomp on the ice. If it's about the texture, stock crunchy snacks as a substitute for ice. Carrots and broccoli spears are a satisfying but tooth-friendly alternative.
Up next in random but relevant health queries: Is it bad to crack your back? A chiropractor explains.