Craving for Ice? You May Have Pagophagia!
Craving for Ice? You May Have 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:

  • pale and dry skin
  • fatigue
  • headache
  • sore tongue
  • rapid heartbeat
  • depression
  • dizziness

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