As I child I had the habit of chewing on ice cubes and was told that this damages your teeth. Now my son has this habit and I'd like to know if it is true. Does chewing on ice cubes damage your teeth?
There is certainly a lot of people claiming it to be true, including various dentists.
Visiting the ADA web-site, the closest I found was the claim appearing in some unreferenced teaching materials.
But what scientific evidence is there?
I only did a quick literature search, and what I found was less than convincing.
One article in an industry journal made the claim:
but did NOT provide a cite. Shame.
(Ref: Managing Incomplete Tooth Fractures, J. Edward Ailor Jr., The Journal of the American Dental Association August 1, 2000 vol. 131 no. 8 1168-1174)
In the book Endodontics: Principles and Practice, by Richard E Walton and Mahmoud Torabinejad, chapter 7, it is claimed:
Annoyingly, I can see that they do have a cite for this, but Google Books won't show it to me. :-(
Amongst 15-16 year old girls, a statistically significant association was found between "crushing ice and muscle sensitivity to palpation". (Of course, correlation does not imply causation, and ice chewing was determined by survey.) The researchers were looking for "temporomandibular disorders", so tooth fractures were probably outside their remit. Nonetheless, this may be enough to encourage people to avoid chewing ice.
[Ref: Oral habits and their association with signs and symptoms of temporomandibular disorders in adolescent girls, A Gavish, M Halachmi, E Winocur, E Gazit, Journal of Oral Rehabilitation (2000), Volume: 27, Issue: 1, Pages: 22-32, ISSN: 0305182X, PubMed: 10632840]
A somewhat negative result was found by one report: [Ref: Risk indicators for posterior tooth fracture, James D Bader, Daniel A Shugars and Jean A Martin. The Journal of the American Dental Association July 1, 2004 vol. 135 no. 7 883-892]
This report looked at one class of tooth fracture, and the results probably cannot be extended to all teeth.
Ingle's Orthodontics 6 by John Ide Ingle (2008) sits on the fence:
(His reference to Brown is to: Brown WS, Jacobs HR, Thompson RE. Thermal fatigue in teeth. J Dent Res 1972;51:461-7. I haven't read this.)
I note Ingles is referring the cracking through thermal cycling, whereas others have reported "microcracks" and "pitting" due to the hardness of the ice. These effects seem unrelated.
There are some reputable people and organisations making the claim.
However, having looked at many of the claims on the web, I can see few providing links to scientific evidence of it occurring in practice.
The limited scientific evidence I was able to find did not suggest that there was a link. Absence of evidence proves little in this case; a more thorough literature search may provide the smoking gun.
In my opinion, for what little that is worth, it is probably true. I'm going to start avoiding chewing on ice in the meantime.
There is definitely some basis for this claim. According to Dr. Michael Payne, damage to teeth due to chewing on ice occurs:
This question was also asked on theanswerbag.com, and I don't know how much trust could be placed on this, but one of the users states:
Interesting to note that there is a thing called pagophagia, which is the compulsive disorder to chew on ice.
From a dental clinic,:
For more, see this link, where Dr. Bill Dorfman explains the Dangers of Chewing Ice.