Some people chew gum, and other people chew ice. Some ice, especially those little nuggets of frozen goodness you can get at Sonic Drive-In, is irresistible. Eating ice, though, is not a big deal, right? After all, it’s just frozen water, and water is super good for you.
Not so fast — there is a really good reason you should stop chewing ice on the regular, and it has everything to do with your health.
Basically, chewing ice is really hard on the teeth. According to Healthline, your teeth aren’t really made for chowing down on cold, hard cubes. If you do it often enough, it can wreck your enamel, which is the hardest part of your teeth. If that starts to disappear, your teeth can become super sensitive and your risk of cavities can increase substantially.
However, that’s not necessarily the end of the bad news. While chewing ice every now and then is probably okay, if you find yourself craving it pretty hard and actually make it a point to gather ice cubes specifically for eating, it can indicate a more serious problem. A condition known as pagophagia describes compulsive ice eating, and it can be a sign of a nutritional deficiency or an eating disorder (via Healthline).
One of the most common medical conditions associated with craving ice is iron-deficiency anemia. While you’re not going to get any iron from your ice cubes, some research shows that it could trigger an effect in those with this type of deficiency. What happens is that more blood heads to the brain, which can lead to better thinking and increased alertness.
Abundant ice eating can also indicate you’re experiencing pica. Pica is when people compulsively eat non-food items, including ice, dirt, paper, chalk, ash, or clay. If you’re not anemic and are drawn to eating ice, it could indicate pica, which can be treated with certain types of therapy, antidepressants, or anti-anxiety medications.
Simply put, eating the last ice remnants in the bottom of your cup on occasion is probably no big deal, but if you’re filling up cups of ice and just sitting around eating it, you might want to head to the doctor. Iron-deficiency anemia is easily diagnosed and treated, and while pica is a little more complicated, it’s best to find out what’s going on so you can hopefully stop eating ice and potentially wrecking your teeth.
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