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Molly Maloof, MD

Director of Clinical Content

How does chewing ice affect your teeth?

My mother has always told me chewing ice is bad for my teeth, but could never provide an explanation. Thanks for your help!

Featured Answer

11 UpVoted this answer
Chewing is a mechanical process, subject to mechanical principles. Teeth are designed to bare load and resist pressure. However, if we place too much load on the teeth there can be fracturing. Ice is a very hard substance and can over load the ability of our teeth to withstand the force of chewing it. You may not notice that there is any effect until small micro fractures progress to the point that a part of the tooth fails and there is missing tooth structure or pain. It is always good to listen to your mother.
Mark Warner
3 UpVoted this answer
Dear patient! I always recommend our patient not to chew on ice, since ice can fracture your teeth. Of course, don't think this will never happen to you because I have seen many teeth crack from years of chewing ice/hard things, even teeth without fillings! This even happened to our office manager! If the fracture extend down to the root, then there is nothing can be done to fix the tooth and will need to be removed. Your teeth may already have small micro-fractures and you are not even aware of it from years of chewing. Best to avoid chewing ice or extra hard things or use your teeth to open bottle caps to prevent future unnecessary dental treatments and costs! All the best to you! -- Lisa Wu DMD
Lisa Wu
3 UpVoted this answer
Daniel that is a great question and one that is often an issue. When a patient comes in to my office for an emergency visit due to a broken tooth it is not typically because that patient was chewing gum or eating jello. It’s usually revealed that they were chewing ice, bit into a shell or a fruit pit or in rare cases bit down on a tiny pebble that somehow made its way in to the food that was prepared. Ice is hard just like a fruit pit, a nut shell or a tiny pebble. Your jaw muscles have the potential to apply approximately 300 lbs. per square inch and when that pressure is applied during chewing against a hard material, your teeth cannot withstand it therefore something has to give and that something is almost always your tooth. Also, if you are chewing ice regularly and your tooth hasn’t broken yet, just give it some time. What you don’t see are the many, tiny, little, hairline fractures you are creating in your enamel which are weakening the strength of your teeth, like a small crack in a windshield, eventually it is going to fail. So guess what ……Mom was right.

Thank you again for the question,

Dr. Paul Yeager D.D.S.
Dr. Paul Yeager
2 UpVoted this answer
Chewing ice is one of the worst dental habits you can have. The reason for this is the force of chewing on the ice combined with the cold temperatures. This combination can lead to small fractures developing in your teeth over time which can eventually lead to larger fractures as well as tooth sensitivity.
2 UpVoted this answer
Ice chewing, or for that matter, chewing anything very hard & brittle such as ice, hard candy, popcorn kernels, or the like, will cause micro-cracks in the outer enamel surface of the teeth.

The same little crack lines that begin in the ice, also propagate in the enamel.

As this progresses, it leads to tooth fracture.
Robert Radin
2 UpVoted this answer
Enamel is the outer most layer of the tooth, is the hardest material in your body and protects the tooth from wearing down. However, it is very brittle and it will chip and dissolve in acid such as found in a soft drink. Chewing on ice will chip or break the enamel. In serve cases, the protective layer is worn down or chipped and dentin, which is underneath the enamel and a softer material, is exposed which may cause sensitivity. It may be necessary to restore the affected tooth with full coverage such as a crown.

Remember to take good care of your teeth including regular check ups,,cleanings and good home care will give you beautiful and healthy smile! Also, consider using a straw when drinking liquids containing ice.
Sun Costigan
2 UpVoted this answer
Chewing Ice doesnt effect your teeth unless you have large mercury fillings that could break your teeth and cause the need for crowns. IF you have no restorations and health teeth it should be of no concern.
Mark Morin
2 UpVoted this answer
Ice is a very hard substance and can cause small cracks to form in your teeth which could lead to decay and even fractured teeth!. Michael A Schneider DMD
Michael Schneider
1 UpVoted this answer
Chewing Ice can cause micro fractures in your teeth over time . As these micro fractured turn to real cracks , teeth can begin to break apart and eventually in need of crowns or worse root canals & crowns and possibly extractions. I would avoid this habit as it has no benefit aside from damaging your teeth .
1 UpVoted this answer
Small ice chips or crushed ice is rarely an issue. Large ice chips are very hard and as with hard candy will cause a large amount of pressure/strain to be placed on a small area of a tooth. This leads to the development of cracks. I have seen healthy teeth fracture down the middle as a result of biting or crunching on hard food objects.
Chewing on ice is not good for your teeth. It causes many many cracks which can over time join together/unite due to more ice or grinding or clenching. This causes larger crack that may eventually causes sensitivity and eventually possibly pain since the nerve eventually becomes affected.
Your Mother was right. You should not chew ice. It can cause teeth to fracture.
To make it really simple, ice is very hard kind of like a softer version of a rock. If you chewed on rocks your teeth would wear and crack. The same applies to ice. If your teeth should have any imperfections in their strength, which is rather common, it is even more likely that your teeth will be damaged by chewing on ice. Try a substitute that is crunchy but not as hard as ice.
Robert T. Wade
Tooth fracture is the main concern. Mothers know best :)
Believe it or not, chewing on ice can do serious damage to your teeth, and it's important for you to understand why so you'll think twice before chomping down on a nice cold piece of ice.

 Your teeth are made up of enamel, dentin and cement (on the root). When you chew on ice, you're putting a great deal of stress on your teeth and are at risk of wearing down the enamel, cracking or chipping. When the enamel is chipped and dentin is exposed, your teeth will weaken and you may experience sensitivity.

Also think about the temperature changes, when you chew ice, you're creating a repetitive hot and cold cycle in your mouth, which can cause microfractures in the enamel. Not only will this weakens your teeth, but it could also cause serious problems with any fillings you may have. A filling may expand faster than the tooth when exposed to hot and cold temperatures, which can shorten the life of the filling.

Chewing on ice could be the sign of something worse, an article by Kristie Leong, M.D., said "if you constantly feel the urge to chew ice, it could be the sign of a serious condition called pica. This is a medical problem that causes people to have an urge to chew on things that have no nutritional value, such as ice or small rocks. This urge can sometimes be overwhelming and may lead to people chewing on dangerous items."

Furthermore, the doctor said that studies have shown that people with the iron deficiency anemia may be more likely to chew on ice than people who have enough iron, which is why you should consider seeing your doctor if you always chew on ice.


It can hurt your gums

Finally, bits of ice can be sharp, and you run the risk of puncturing your gums when you chew on them. Consider carrying sugar-free gum around so you'll have something else to chew instead of ice.
The biggest problem with ice is that dental filling materials can expand and contract depending upon the temperatures they are exposed to. This can cause micro fractures in the tooth which can become cracks. A cracked tooth can become painful or break requiring a root canal, a crown or possibly even the extraction of the tooth.
Dr. Brock Hinton
Chewing ice repeatedly over time weakens the teeth- creating small microfractures in the teeth. As one continues to chew ice- these teeth are more likely to fracture either a small part or even half the tooth- requiring repair or full coverage. If the fracture continues to the nerve of the tooth- a root canal treatment may be required before coverage. Finally, if a fracture occurs from the crown of the tooth down to the tooth root- the tooth would likely need to be pulled & replaced. There are a few options for replacement such as implants, bridges & removable appliances.
Christie Martinez
Chewing ice is not good for your teeth. Is applies stresses to your teeth that can and will lead to teeth fracture and restoration failure. Try to avoid if possible. Mother always knows best, Dr. Kristi Crispin
Dr. Kristi Crispin
Chewing on ice can be very damaging to the teeth since you are placing an extremely cold hard material directly on them. Teeth are basically at 98.6 degree's temperature and the ice is less than 32 degrees. So the rapid thermal shock to the tooth can cause it to fracture or break. This is especially more serious if the teeth have large fillings. The fillings and the teeth contract at different rates and ratios. It is very common for us dentists to see patients every week who have a broken tooth from chewing ice. So if I were you I would avoid eating ice. If you insist then you can count on seeing a dentist for a broken tooth somewhere in your future. Of course to repair the broken tooth can sometimes require a root canal and a cap which can be very expensive. If you must put ice in your mouth then it helps a little if you just place it on your tongue and let it dissolve rather than chewing. Either case is bad for you, so don't do it if possible.
Spiker Davis
Hi Daniel,

Because ice is hard, it can cause teeth to crack or shatter. Because the temperature of our teeth(warm) and the temperature of ice(cold), the ice can put microfractures on teeth. Teeth can split in half or can crack.
Lilly P.
Chewing ice will affect the hard enamel of the teeth and causes multiple microcracks which in turn will cause sensitivity for the teeth. Keep in mind that very cold or very hot food or beverages alone also will create small shoks to the teeth. if you do have any restorative fillings or crowns, shrinkage and expansions due to thermal changes may cayse failure of their purpose.
Haroun Rostami