Eating Ice Cubes Side Effects

Eating Ice Cubes Side Effects
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Many readers are interested in the following topic: Is It Bad for You to Eat Ice. We are happy to note, that our authors have already studied the modern research about the topic you are interested in. Based on the information provided in the latest medical digests, modern research and surveys, we provide extensive answer. Keep reading to find out more.

If you’re having jaw pain or toothaches, talk to your dentist. They may be able to help you avoid serious damage to your teeth and jaw.

What is Pagophagia?

If you have an intense craving to chew on ice, you might have a condition called pagophagia. This is often caused by a nutrition deficiency. Regularly chewing on ice is damaging to your teeth, and it might signal an underlying health condition.

Read on to find out the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for pagophagia today.

Craving Ice

Pagophagia is an intense craving to chew on ice. You have pagophagia if you find yourself frequently driven to chew on ice cubes, ice chips, or even frost from your freezer.

‌Pagophagia is a type of pica. Pica is the desire to eat non-nutritional items such as dirt or paper. If your craving is for ice, then you have a specific type of pica called pagophagia.

If you occasionally enjoy crunching on leftover ice cubes, such as when you finish a fountain drink, that isn’t pagophagia. Chewing on ice only becomes pagophagia when the drive to chew ice is intense and persistent.

Symptoms of Pagophagia

The main symptom of pagophagia is chewing ice. People with pagophagia chew ice cubes, shaved ice, crushed ice, or frost regularly.

If you have pagophagia you might also have some of the following symptoms:

The above symptoms aren’t caused by chewing ice, however. These symptoms are tied to anemia, a common underlying cause of pagophagia.

Causes of Pagophagia

Iron deficiency.Iron deficiency or iron deficiency anemia is the most common cause of pagophagia. In one study, 16% of people with iron deficiency anemia reported a strong craving to chew on ice.‌

‌There are good reasons people with iron deficiency anemia want to chew on ice. Chewing on ice helps people with iron deficiency feel more alert and mentally sharp.

Calcium deficiency. Having low levels of iron is the most common nutritional deficiency associated with pagophagia, but low calcium can also trigger the condition.

Eating disorders. A drive to chew on ice might be due to an eating disorder. This can be because your body wants nutrients that it is lacking. People with eating disorders other than pica might also frequently chew on ice to feel full without ingesting any calories.

Dry mouth. If you have xerostomia, or dry mouth, you might develop a habit of chewing ice to keep moisture in your mouth.

Developmental and mental health issues. Other causes of pagophagia include stress, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and developmental disorders.

Complications of Pagophagia

Dental health problems. Pagophagia can have serious consequences for your dental health. The American Dental Association lists ice as one of the top nine foods that damage your teeth.

Chewing ice can:

  • Damage tooth your enamel making you more likely to get to cavities
  • Damage braces or fillings
  • Crack your teeth
  • Irritate your gums and cause gum recession

Malnutrition. If your craving for ice has pushed other food off your plate, pagophagia can cause malnutrition. The risk of malnutrition increases if your ice chewing habit is primarily caused by an eating disorder.

Anemia complications. Iron deficiency anemia, the most common cause of pagophagia, can lead to serious complications if not treated.

  • Irregular heartbeat
  • ‌Enlarged heart
  • ‌Pregnancy complications such as premature birth
  • ‌Increased infections
  • ‌Growth and development delays in children

Treatments for Pagophagia

If you have pagophagia, you need to treat the underlying cause.

If your pagophagia is caused by iron deficiency, treatment will depend on the severity of your anemia.

Treatment options include:

  • Increasing the iron in your diet, by eating foods rich in iron like eggs, leafy greens, and enriched breads
  • Iron supplements, either over-the-counter or prescribed
  • Iron infusions
  • Blood transfusions

‌With proper treatment, you can expect your symptoms to improve quickly. Even before your hemoglobin levels rise, you will find you have less of a craving for ice. Hemoglobin is the measure of red blood cells that carry oxygen in your body. A low level can show you have an iron deficiency.

If your pagophagia is caused by an eating disorder, stress, or obsessive-compulsive disorder, then cognitive behavior therapy can help.

If your pagophagia is caused by dry mouth, try switching from ice to sugar-free chewing gum. This will be safer for your teeth and will encourage saliva production. Depending on the cause, there are a variety of dry mouth treatments available that can increase saliva production.

If you can’t stop yourself from chewing on ice as you work to address the cause of your pagophagia, stick to either shaved ice or small and mostly melted pieces. This will do less damage to your teeth than larger chunks or cubes.

If you find yourself chewing on ice throughout the day, your body might be trying to tell you something. Protect your teeth and your health by addressing the cause of your ice cravings.

Show Sources

American Dental Association: “6 Habits That Harm Your Teeth (And How to Break Them),” “Healthy Mouth: Top 9 Foods that Damage Your Teeth,” “Xerostomia (Dry Mouth).”

Cleveland Clinic: “Anemia.”

Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research: “Pagophagia – A Common by Rarely Reported Form of Pica.”

Mayo Clinic: “Craving and chewing ice: A sign of anemia,” “Hemoglobin test,” “Iron deficiency anemia.”

Medical Hypotheses: “Pagophagia improves neuropsychological processing speed in iron-deficiency anemia.”

National Eating Disorders Association: “Pica.”

Rinsho Ketsueki: “Pagophagia in iron deficiency anemia.”

Is It Bad for You to Eat Ice?

Regularly chewing on ice cubes can dental problems, including tooth decay. Craving ice can occur due to some health conditions, including nutritional deficiencies.

There’s nothing quite as refreshing as scooping up a spoonful of shaved ice on a hot summer day. The small melty ice cubes clinking around at the bottom of your glass can cool you down and quench your thirst. And when you’re sick, sucking on ice cubes can relieve dry mouth without making you nauseous.

But what about chewing on hard ice cubes straight from the freezer? Is it bad for you?

Eating ice cubes may be one of your dog’s favorite activities, but for you it could indicate an underlying health condition. Pagophagia is the name of the medical condition that means compulsive ice eating.

Craving ice can be a sign of a nutritional deficiency or an eating disorder. It may even harm your quality of life. Chewing ice can also lead to dental problems, such as enamel loss and tooth decay.

Several conditions can cause people to crave ice. They include:

Iron deficiency anemia

Compulsive ice eating is often associated with a common type of anemia called iron deficiency anemia.

Anemia occurs when your blood doesn’t have enough healthy red blood cells. The job of red blood cells is to carry oxygen throughout your body’s tissues. Without that oxygen, you may feel tired and short of breath.

People with iron deficiency anemia don’t have enough iron in their blood. Iron is essential to building healthy red blood cells. Without it, the red blood cells can’t carry oxygen the way they’re supposed to.

Some researchers believe that chewing ice triggers an effect in people with iron deficiency anemia that sends more blood up to the brain. More blood in the brain means more oxygen in the brain. Because the brain is used to being deprived of oxygen, this spike of oxygen may lead to increased alertness and clarity of thinking.

The researchers cited a small study in which participants were given a test before and after eating ice. The participants with anemia did significantly better after eating ice. Participants without anemia weren’t affected.


Pica is an eating disorder in which people compulsively eat one or more nonfood items, such as ice, clay, paper, ash, or dirt. Pagophagia is a subtype of pica. It involves compulsively eating ice, snow, or ice water.

People with pica aren’t compelled to eat ice because of a physical disorder like anemia. Instead, it’s a mental disorder. Pica often occurs alongside other psychiatric conditions and intellectual disabilities. It can also develop during pregnancy.

If you’ve been craving and compulsively eating ice for more than one month, see your doctor. If you’re pregnant, see your doctor right away to have blood work done. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies during pregnancy can cause serious problems.

Start by going to your family doctor and explaining your symptoms. Tell them if you’ve ever had cravings to eat anything else unusual other than ice.

Your doctor will likely run tests on your blood to check for an iron deficiency. If your blood work suggests anemia, your doctor may run more tests to look for an underlying cause, such as excessive bleeding.

If you have serious ice cravings, you may end up eating a lot more than you realize. People with pagophagia can eat several trays or bags of ice each day.

Dental problems

Your teeth are simply not built for the wear and tear caused by eating bags or trays of ice every day. Over the course of time, you can destroy the enamel on your teeth.

Tooth enamel is the strongest part of the teeth. It makes up the outermost layer of each tooth and protects the inner layers from decay and damage. When enamel erodes, the teeth can become extremely sensitive to hot and cold substances. The risk of cavities also increases significantly.

Complications caused by anemia

If iron deficiency anemia is left untreated, it can become severe. It can lead to several health issues, including:

  • heart problems, including an enlarged heart and heart failure
  • problems during pregnancy, including premature birth and low birth weight
  • developmental and physical growth disorders in infants and children

Complications caused by pica

Pica is a very dangerous condition. It can lead to a variety of complications, many of them medical emergencies. While ice won’t do internal damage, other nonfood items can. If someone has pagophagia, they might be compelled to eat other substances, too.

Depending on what you eat, pica can lead to:

  • bowel problems
  • intestinal obstructions
  • perforated (torn) intestine
  • poisoning
  • infections
  • choking

If you have severe ice cravings, you need to find out why. If you have iron deficiency anemia, iron supplements should get rid of your cravings almost immediately.

If you have a type of pica, treatment may be a little more complicated. Talk therapy may be helpful, especially when combined with antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications.

If you’re having jaw pain or toothaches, talk to your dentist. They may be able to help you avoid serious damage to your teeth and jaw.

Compulsive ice chewing can lead to a variety of complications. It may also interfere with your life at school, work, or home. Make an appointment with your healthcare provider to find out the reason why you’re craving ice. A simple blood test may help you figure out the cause of your cravings and start treatment.

Last medically reviewed on December 11, 2017

How we reviewed this article:

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  • Hunt MG, et al. (2014). Pagophagia improves neuropsychological processing speed in iron-deficiency anemia. DOI:
  • Masa RA. (2015). Craving and chewing ice: A sign of anemia?
  • Mayo Clinic Staff. (2016). Iron deficiency anemia.
  • Tsuyoshi H, et al. (2009). A rapid recovery from pagophagia following treatment for iron deficiency anemia and TMJ disorder accompanied by masked depression.

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