Is Your Ice Chewing Habit a Problem?

Posted on: 27 January 2019


Lots of people find it fun to occasionally crunch down on an ice cube when they have a drink. This is quite a satisfying thing to do. However, some people eat ice cubes all the time, whether they are having a cold drink or not. They don't do this fun; it is often a compulsion.

This habit, pagophagia, is not a good thing. Chewing on chunks of ice all the time is bad for the teeth, and it may be a sign that you have an underlying medical problem. What causes pagophagia and what should you do about your habit?

The Causes of Pagophagia 

People develop pagophagia for different reasons. One of the most common reasons for chewing ice compulsively is an iron deficiency. This often happens when you're pregnant, but it can happen to anybody at any time. If you're slightly low on iron, you may crave ice. Although the reasons for this aren't clear, it is thought that chewing ice makes you feel more alert when your low iron levels make you tired and lethargic.

Some people's pagophagia doesn't have a physical cause. This craving can be stress or mood related. If you're feeling low or unable to cope, then you may be more likely to develop habitual behaviour. Crunching down on pieces of ice may simply make you feel a little better by giving you a diversion. In these cases, you may only chew ice when you feel bad; this isn't necessarily a constant habit for you.

Treatments For Pagophagia

If you want or need to crunch on ice on a regular basis, then it's worth talking to your GP about the habit. Your GP can test your iron levels to see if you are anaemic. If your iron levels are low, then a course of iron tablets should make you feel better generally. Once your iron levels go back to normal, you'll probably find that your pagophagia goes away too.

If your iron levels are fine and your doctor thinks that your ice chewing is down to depression or a mental health issue, then they can talk to you about how you're feeling. You can work together to find ways to make you feel better. For example, your GP may recommend that you have counselling or therapy. They may also suggest medications to level things out if they think that that is appropriate. Again, once you feel better in yourself, pagophagia usually disappears.