Is Chewing Ice Really Bad for My Teeth?

Yes.

Don’t worry.  We have much more to say than that.  But for those of you who just like straight shooters, there is your answer.  The answer is yes, either way you read the question.  Yes, it really is bad for your teeth.  And yes, it is really bad for your teeth.

Why is Chewing Ice Bad for My Teeth?

First of all, ice is relatively hard, and chewing anything that hard is bad for your teeth.  Teeth were designed to withstand chewing forces from normal food items.  Ice is harder than food necessary for appropriate nutrition.  It is harder than most nuts and hard crackers that you may snack on.  There is simply no reason to subject your enamel to something that is too hard for it to withstand.

Secondly, the extreme cold temperature of ice can damage the teeth.  Our mouths are usually at normal body temperature, or around 98 degrees Fahrenheit.  This is far warmer than the temperature of ice.  Such an extreme temperature change can cause cracking and disruption of the enamel matrix.

Even Soft Sonic Ice?shutterstock_1499976104

Yes.

Even soft Sonic ice or others like it can damage the teeth.  Though it may lack the extreme hardness of other ice cubes, it still creates the extreme temperature change.

Have you heard the advice that you should never pour hot water on your frozen car windshield to quickly remove the ice?  The reason is that the sharp change in temperature can crack the glass of your windshield.  Tooth enamel is like glass or ceramic, and it will also crack under drastic changes in temperature.

What Problems Can Chewing Ice Cause?

We’ve mentioned cracked teeth multiple times, and this is the chief problem caused by chewing ice.  These cracks can vary in severity.  Sometimes, we see minor cracks in the most superficial layer of enamel.  We call these craze lines.  They do not require any treatment, but they are a red flag that the enamel is damaged in this area, placing it at risk for further damage.  More severe cracks can extend through the enamel into the underlying dentin.  This leads to sensitivity to cold and potential pain on chewing.

(Obviously, if chewing ice makes your tooth hurt, you should stop immediately and make an appointment for a suspected cracked tooth!)

The most severe case occurs when the crack extends through both enamel and dentin and into the nerve of the tooth or onto the root.  If a crack reaches the nerve, the tooth will require a root canal and crown.  If a crack reaches the root, there is no treatment to save it, and extraction is the only option.

Because it is impossible to predict which level of severity you will experience, it is best to simply stop chewing ice.  It is not worth the risk.

Why are Cracked Teeth Such a Big Deal?

Cracked toothCracked teeth are unpredictable.  They are difficult to diagnose because they do not appear on dental x-rays until they are large enough to be visible to the naked eye.  They cause inconsistent symptoms, and ones that first appear to be minor often end up requiring root canals to completely eliminate the discomfort they cause.  Cracked teeth frustrate patients and dentists alike.

Cracked teeth are a big deal because they usually require extensive dental treatment to repair them.  In relatively minor cases, we might be able to place an adhesive filling, but in most, they need coverage with a dental crown.  The more severe cases may involve root canal, or extraction of the tooth and replacement with a dental implant.  More severe = more expensive!

Another reason that cracked teeth are so frustrating is that they are almost always preventable.  We can stop bad habits like chewing ice.  We can protect from unstoppable bad habits like nighttime clenching and/or grinding by wearing professional nightguards.

More Questions about Chewing Ice?

Call 972-347-1145 today to schedule a consultation with Dr. Jill and Dr. Cara.  We can assess your risk factors and help you prevent more damage to your teeth.

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