Is Eating Ice Bad For You?

It can be difficult to stop yourself from chewing on ice after finishing the last sips of a drink. There's something so satisfying about that crunch, and a few ice cubes can go a long way towards providing some extra relief to your thirst. Before you pop that next ice cube in your mouth though, take pause, because the habit could be doing damage to your health. 

The first place where ice does its damage is on the enamel of your teeth. In case you haven't been to the dentist in awhile, the enamel is the outer layer of your teeth and is what protects them against cavities and decay. Regularly crunching away on hard ice cubes can, over time, cause that enamel to wear away and make your teeth more sensitive to cold drinks and foods (via Healthline). Even worse, without strong enamel your pearly whites may stain easier and not be so pearly white anymore (via Tufts Now).

The negative effects on your chompers is really only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to eating ice, and if you find yourself constantly doing it, well, then you may have pagophagia. "Pago-what?!" you say. Pagophagia is the need to compulsively eat ice and could indicate that you have anemia, an iron deficiency that means your body isn't producing enough red blood cells. Without an ample amount of red blood cells coursing through your veins you're more likely to feel weak or out of breath. As for how chewing on ice ties in to this, some in the medical community believe the chewing of ice sends more blood to the brain, which provides it with the oxygen it could be lacking.

While pagophagia alone is cause for concern, it falls under the mental health umbrella of pica. This is a condition in which people compulsively eat non-food items ranging from something like ice or snow all the way to eating dirt or paper. If somebody has pagophagia, they could eventually move onto eating other non-food items which can result in all sorts of medical problems from choking to intestinal blockages.

When it comes down to it, it's probably best to just let those cubes in the bottom of your cocktail melt rather than crunching on them, or better yet, since ice is known to be rife with bacteria, maybe skip it altogether. And if you find do yourself eating a lot of ice or craving it, you might want to talk with your doctor or dentist.