Find yourself constantly chewing ice? You are not alone. Chewing ice can be normal but if you feel the need to chew on ice often then it could be a sign of something more serious.
Many people report having cravings for nonfood materials like chalk, dirt, and ice. This condition is called Pica. Pica is a unique condition whereby individuals crave nonfood materials.
The form of Pica that causes the compulsion of someone to chew ice is called Pagophagia. Pagophagia means you crave to chew on icy substances consistently. If you experience this, make an appointment with your doctor to get yourself checked out.
Symptoms Of Pagophagia
The constant desire to chew on ice or drink iced beverages is one of the most common indications of Pagophagia. The desire to chew ice is not always a big issue. The main issue is when these cravings last more than a month. At this point, your doctor might diagnose you with Pica.
There are some symptoms you will start noticing aside from strong cravings for ice. Pagophagia is also closely associated with iron deficiency anemia. The manifestation of some of the symptoms listed below may be experienced:
- Body weakness and fatigue
- Pale skin
- Pain in chest and a faster heartbeat
- Lightheadedness or dizziness
- Swollen tongue
- Cold hands and feet
- Little or no appetite
Causes Of Pagophagia
There are different reasons why Pagophagia cravings originate in an individual. It is most dominant in children but adults can develop this condition as well.
- Hormonal Changes/ Pregnancy
In some cases, Pagophagia is developed as a result of changes in hormones. It is also associated with pregnancy and the accompanying hormones. The hormonal and general body changes associated with pregnancy could be the cause of the cravings to chew ice. Some of the other known causes include
- Iron Deficiency Anemia
In a study carried out on some iron-deficient anemia patients, some of them showed signs of pagophagia. The iron supplements prescribed, however, was useful in treating the craving for ice.
- Emotional Issues
Destabilization emotionally could also be a major issue for why people chew on ice. This could be a sort of coping mechanism developed to help through whatever they are going through.
- Mental Disorder
Another known cause of Pagophagia is a mental disorder. This can be as a result of a variety of reasons. Leading this list is stress. Stress may come from mental, physical or psychological issue. It could also be as a result of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). In the different highlighted cases, Pagophagia springs up as a means of soothing these conditions in some ways.
How To Diagnose Pagophagia
If the cravings for chewing on ice or chilled related drinks persist for over one month, then it might be time to visit your doctor.
There is a certain diagnosis you can do yourself before you see your doctor. This self-diagnosis could be useful to your doctor during his own diagnosis. This includes
- The amount of ice consumed per day
- Strong cravings you have for other materials
- Out of the box symptoms being experienced
- How long you have been chewing or craving ice
The doctor may want to see your full medical history including all medications you are on. A physical examination could also be carried out to rule out other forms of doubt. If iron deficiency anemia or other related deficiency is detected, a blood diagnosis may be required.
How Do You Treat Pagophagia?
Sometimes, chewing ice can be as a result of iron deficiency anemia. You may need to be on an iron supplement. This may relieve your Pagopagia symptoms.
It is very important to get a direct prescription from the doctor for your iron supplements. This is to avoid any form of an excessive build-up of iron in the body. Excess iron could lead to cancer and cause serious damage to the heart and arteries. Excess iron supplements can also result in constipation.
Behavioral therapy could also be useful in the cases of Pagophagia that are associated with stress, obsessive compulsion disorder, and the other mental related issues. This therapy may involve positive counseling and conscious reinforcement.
Is Chewing Ice Bad for Your Teeth?
Chewing ice can be very bad for your teeth. Here are some oral complications you can get from chewing ice.
- Damaged enamel
- Fractured/chipped teeth
- Risk of breaking previous dental restorations
- Need for new dental restorations
- More likely to get a cavity
- Sensitive teeth
- Sore jaw joints/ development of jaw pain
Different complications may arise from eating large quantities of ice. This could harm your teeth by causing serious damage to the enamel and cause cracking or fractures in teeth. If your enamel is damaged, your teeth can start to become excessively sensitive.
Since ice can break your teeth, it can also break existing dental restorations. Crowns, fillings and other dental work can break and fall out.
In addition to this, if you have breaks or cracks in your teeth, they can catch plaque more easily and cause cavities to form.
If Left Untreated
Mild iron deficiency anemia is usually not that serious. However, more serious iron deficiency anemia can cause severe health issues.
- Heart-related issues
This might result in an irregular heartbeat pattern. The iron deficiency anemia causes your heart to pump more blood to make up for the reduction in oxygen in your bloodstream. This could lead to the enlargement of your heart which may result in heart failure due to the excess pressure on your heart.
- Pregnancy-related complications
This complication could result in having some issues during pregnancy like having low birth weight for your child. It could also lead to the premature birth of your child.
- Complications in growth rate
It could also affect the growth rate in children and increase the risk of infections in your child.
How Do You Prevent Pagophagia?
Various preventive strategies can be put in place to address Pagophagia before this craving to chew ice advances. If it has not exceeded a month, you may not have any reason to worry at all.
How to Stop Chewing Ice
For the prevention of this type of excessive chewing ice craving, here are some of the things you can do
- Conscious mindfulness of what goes in your mouth
- Treatment of any form of an iron-deficient disorder
- Stress management and therapy
- Mental disorder management
Wrapping It Up
Ice cravings might be a coping mechanism developed to cope with something you might be going through. This could fast develop to a craving which is harmful to your body. It is very important to pay close attention to these cravings and get immediate help for the benefit of your teeth and body in general.
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Kelly is a registered dental hygienist and oral health care provider. She is passionate about oral hygiene and encourages people to achieve optimal oral health. She has been working in the dental profession for 16 years and worked in many different roles in the dental industry. Kelly is currently a pediatric dental hygienist specializing in children’s dentistry. She is committed to helping others with their oral health care issues and helping others achieve a smile they love.