Pica-Chew: Tips for Safeguarding Your Dental Health When You Have Pica

Pica is a condition where people eat things that aren't foods and do not contain nutrients. The issue has been described since ancient times, and people with pica may eat clay, rocks, feces, fingernails and a long list of other items. Unfortunately, pica has been associated with wearing down dental enamel and a few other issues. Luckily, there are ways you can minimise the damage. Take a look at these ideas:

1. Address the undying cause of the pica

No one is 100 percent sure what causes pica. However, the condition is often thought to be linked to mineral deficiencies or mental health issues such as obsessive compulsive disorder. Talk with your general physician about the issue, get tested for mineral deficiencies and consider going to counseling. 

2. Talk with your dentist about your pica

Because pica involves putting strange substances in your mouth, it can have effects on your teeth. Talk with your dentist about any dental pain you have had due to the pica and see if your dentist has any tips or ideas to help resolve those issues. Also, if you have any worn enamel, cracked teeth or other issues, repair them so that those issues don't get worse and harder to repair.

3. Try to keep hard substances, germs and bacteria to a minimum

If you have had pica symptoms for a long time, you may not just be able to stop the behavior immediately. However, you can take steps to minimise the potential damage. For example, if you chew ice or stones, consider wearing a rubber mouth guard when doing it because chewing hard non-food items puts your teeth at risk of cracking. Alternatively, try to switch to something softer to chew. For example, chew soft clay instead of rocks. Similarly, if you chew your fingernails, wash your hands first so that you don't spread potential cavity-causing bacteria to your mouth.

4. Brush and floss after chewing things

As you work on the pica and try to find a resolution for it, you may need to engage in reactive measures. To that end, brush and floss your teeth after a pica episode as well as after meals and snacks. If brushing on the go doesn't work for your situation, chew sugar-free gum. It can help to agitate the dirt and debris off your teeth. Also, consider carrying antiseptic mouthwash with you at all times.  

For more tips on dealing with the dental effects of pica, contact your dentist or a specialist in pica.