Pica is a disorder where people feel the urge to eat items of little or no nutritional value, such as soil, chalk, sand, or glass. This disorder generally occurs amongst children and people who have developmental issues.
Pagophagia is a form of pica—it’s a disorder where people have the constant urge to consume ice, or iced drinks. But, why is eating ice bad for you? Chomping on a piece of ice may appear to be a seemingly harmless habit, but it can actually be detrimental to your teeth.
Why Do People Eat Ice?
People may chew ice for a variety of reasons:
1. Iron deficiency: On average, an adult should consume between eight to 18 mg of iron per day in their diets. Several studies have shown that people who consume the necessary amounts of iron per day are less likely to chew ice. In fact, pagophagia has been linked with iron deficiency. For example, the texture from ice may reduce tongue inflammation, which is a symptom of low iron. Research shows that when iron supplements are used to treat anemia, pagophagia disappears, with little chance of reoccurrence.
2. Diet: In an effort to lose weight quickly, some people eat ice to prevent themselves from eating other foods. Some people also eat ice in between meals as an appetite suppressant—although there is no evidence that shows this will help with weight loss.
3. Habits/obsession: People who are bored, or constantly crave something to chew on, may chomp on ice cubes. This can eventually turn into an obsession.
4. Nausea: For some people, chewing ice may provide a cooling sensation to relieve nausea.
Is Eating Ice Bad for You?
There are many reasons why eating ice is bad for you. Regularly chewing on ice can cause harm to your dental health, or lead to more serious issues:
1. Eating ice cause severe damage to teeth and gums: By constantly chewing on ice, you’re putting pressure on your teeth and you risk wearing down the enamel. This could lead to your teeth cracking or chipping. Your teeth can also become weak and sensitive. Furthermore, if you happen to chomp down on a particularly sharp piece of ice, you will risk puncturing your gums.
2. Nutritional issues: People who eat ice as a method to lose weight may not be getting their daily nutrients and they can end up sick or malnourished.
3. Socially unacceptable: Constantly chomping down on ice may irritate the people around you. The crunching sound can become increasingly annoying to some, which can eventually affect your social life.
What to Do If You Are Addicted to Eating Ice
If you are constantly chewing on ice, but don’t know exactly why, it’s possible that your body may be low in iron. Remember, people with an iron deficiency may be more likely to chomp on ice compared to those who don’t have an iron deficiency.
Don’t rush to conclusions, but speak to your doctor if you are worried. Finally, if you feel the need to chew on something, carry around a pack of sugar-free gum. It’s gentler on your teeth and your breath will smell fresh!
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Sources for today’s article:
“Is Eating Ice Bad for You?” EnkiVillage web site; http://www.enkivillage.com/is-eating-ice-bad-for-you.html#affix-section-1, last accessed June 22, 2015.
“Why is chewing ice bad for your teeth?” DentalPlans.com, June 23, 2014; http://www.dentalplans.com/dentalhealtharticles/58421/why-is-chewing-ice-bad-for-your-teeth.html.