If you are like many people, you may find it hard to resist sucking on and biting pieces of ice as you enjoy a cold drink. Although this seems like a harmless habit, chewing on ice can actually be quite damaging to your teeth.
It takes up to 250 pounds of force to break ice cubes with your teeth! Although your teeth are strong enough to do that task, chewing ice imposes a higher risk of damage than chewing many other types of hard foods.
The reason for this lies in the structure of teeth. The soft inner nerve and blood supply of each tooth is protected by enamel, the hardest substance in the body. Enamel is made of mineralized layers of crystal rods. As you bite on an ice cube, these crystals experience a extreme drop in temperature. When that occurs, the crystals temporarily expand slightly. Over time, these repeated expansions can result in very tiny fractures in the enamel. If the tooth has a large silver filling, it is especially vulnerable to cracks being formed due to ice chewing. Microfractures may occur from normal jaw forces from eating. However, ice accelerates this process of making small cracks in the tooth.
Heed The Warning
Sometimes, you may notice warning signs of a cracked tooth. You may feel sensitive to cold and hot beverages or foods. Or you may feel sharp edges with your tongue. However, many times, the first clue is when a large chunk of tooth breaks off. Sometimes you feel a sharp sudden pain when you bite down but other times a broken tooth does not ache. Don't be fooled though. If it is cracked, it needs attention before it gets worse.
What Do I Do?
Even when a tooth has deep cracks, hurts while biting or had a piece of enamel break off, it may still be possible to save it. The important thing is to see us as soon as possible for treatment. If you wait too long, especially if you experience pain while biting, the tooth may split. If that happens, there is no way to salvage it. It will need to be removed.
Your teeth handle a lot of use and abuse. Chewing on ice adds extra stress and problems that are easy to avoid. If ice chewing is a habit for you or for someone you know, now is a good time to stop. Let that ice cube melt. . . your teeth will thank you for it!
If you have noticed any of the alarm bells mentioned above, Dr. Flower can help you figure out what the condition is of your teeth and what options we offer for care. Call us today!