Crunching on ice cubes after finishing a cold beverage might be something that would seem to be of little consequence. However, chewing ice—especially on a regular basis—can wreak havoc on teeth over time, causing significant damage.
Overview of the Damage
For the most part, teeth are made of dentin with enamel covering the outer surfaces. With repetitive crunching, these surfaces are subjected to excessive pressure. Over time, this can create patterns of wear in the enamel, possibly even cracking or chipping it. If cracks and chips occur in enamel, this can expose the underlying dentin, resulting in weaker, sensitive teeth. Splintering ice in the teeth can also create sharp pieces that can cause other problems. Puncturing of the gums can occur with these ice pieces, which can cause painful injuries or even infection.
The Crunching Cycle
Chewing ice produces a repetitive cycle of hot and cold in the mouth. The differences between these extreme temperatures may also lead to enamel cracks in teeth. In the long term, these cracks can lead to a weakening of the teeth. Any filings present in teeth may also become damaged with this cycle. This could occur due to expansion and contraction of filling materials in the teeth due to temperature fluctuations. A filling may not last as long under these circumstances.
Some people have a health issue called pica. When present, this disorder can cause a strong urge to chew. Sometimes, this urge can be so powerful that people will even chew nonfood items such as ice or small stones. The frequent urge to chew ice could also indicate an iron deficiency, which a doctor can treat.
Instead of damaging teeth or injuring gums, anyone with an urge to chew ice should consider trying to chew sugar-free gum. After all, the mouth is the gateway to your health. If you're experiencing problems with your teeth or gums, give us a call.