Crunch! Crunch! Crunch!
It’s a sound you hear every day, your coworker loudly munching on ice cubes next to you. Unfortunately for them, they’ve got bad news coming. Not only is a habit of chewing ice usually symptomatic of an underlying problem, but it’s also always horrible and dangerous for the teeth.
Pago-what now? Pagophagia is a form of an eating disorder called pica, the scientific name for when people crave eating something that isn’t food and doesn’t hold any nutritional value, such as dirt, paint chips, scabs, etc. Pagophagia relates specifically to craving and compulsive consumption of ice.
Great question! Next time your coworker is driving you crazy with their ice chewing, take a moment to realize it’s totally involuntary; they’re probably sick and don’t even know it. Besides a possible eating disorder, there’s a deeper reason their subconscious is seeking ice. You know how our bodies are generally self-sustaining and take the proper actions to solve an imbalance, for example, if you eat bad cheese, your body’s natural response is to get it out as quickly as possible.
It hasn’t been conclusively proven yet, but it’s most likely that a person is eating ice as the body’s natural response to a vitamin deficiency. The most common deficiency that people are familiar associating ice eating with is a form of anemia where the body lacks iron. Iron-deficiency anemia can cause glossitis, the name for a tender tongue. The body’s natural response to a swollen and tender tongue? Numbing the wound with ice — making an anemic person a rampant ice eater.
Luckily, taking iron supplements greatly helps to treat anemia and reduce the compulsory ice eating. If taking iron doesn’t work, studies have shown that increasing your levels of Vitamins B12 and B1 have also improved glossitis caused by other deficiency conditions.
So if this is a dental blog, why do we so concerned about an eating disorder? Well, the answer is simple — eating ice is extremely dangerous to your teeth.
Now, if your teeth are the hardest part of your body, harder than bone even, how could a little frozen water actually pose a threat?
Well, it’s not so much that solely the ice is the problem. Rather, a combination of ice, amount eaten, and length of time are a lethal triple threat to your enamel. While your teeth function very well at what they were designed to, they were not meant to withstand constant chewing of such a hard material. In fact, your teeth can handle a lot, but the general rule of thumb is that pressure is their kryptonite. The constant pressure your teeth sustain from repeatedly cracking the hard surface of ice dents, cracks, and even erodes the enamel of your teeth. Unfortunately, your body can’t replace your enamel naturally, meaning you have now opened yourself up to cavities, increased temperature sensitivity, and expensive dental bills.
Christiana Dental Center
If you’ve been eating ice regularly, at least several days a week, for over a month, you should see your general practitioner and your dentist! At Christiana Dental Center we can check your teeth and hopefully stall or reverse any damage done to your teeth by the solid form of water. Schedule an appointment now!