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Popcorn is an incredibly popular snack, and it’s not hard to understand why. It is quite affordable and has that crunchy, poofy texture that goes perfectly with butter and salt, making it a great way to enhance your movie-viewing pleasure. The Popcorn Board estimates that Americans eat about 15 billion quarts of it annually, making it one of the most consumed snacks around.
Despite all the nice things about eating popcorn, it can carry real risks to your teeth if you’re not careful. However, any eater of popcorn can attest to how it can get stuck between your teeth and in your gums and how biting down on an unpopped kernel can be a jarring and painful experience. Read on to learn about the dangers of eating popcorn along with some mouth-healthy alternatives.
Action movies are full of fight scenes where a guy gets savagely hit in the face without suffering any tooth damage, but the fantasy world of movies is much different than the harsh realities of eating popcorn. Here are a few ways popcorn can hurt your teeth:
Your teeth are incredibly strong, but unpopped popcorn kernels are beyond their limits. Even if you have gotten away with biting down on them many times before, all it takes is one unlucky chomp to crack or chip your teeth. A chip can lead to a crack if left untreated. After cracking a tooth, you may experience pain while chewing or when consuming hot or cold foods or beverages. The pain may be inconsistent, but cracked teeth cannot heal on their own and require professional intervention.
Just like your natural teeth, dental restorations like crowns and implants cannot deal with crunching on unpopped popcorn kernels. The Journal of Oral Implantology published a piece suggesting that frequent popcorn consumption can make dental implants more likely to fail. Damaged restorations will need to be professionally repaired or replaced.
When popcorn hulls get stuck beneath the gums, the surrounding tissue can become inflamed. If a hull trapped in that position is not removed from the gums, pus can accumulate around it, resulting in an abscess. These unsightly blemishes look like red shiny lumps on the gums that may deposit pus around the gumline.
The key to getting hulls out from your gums and teeth is excellent oral hygiene. Brush your teeth with a soft-bristled appliance and fluoride toothpaste and gently floss all of your teeth, making sure to get under the gumline to dislodge any lingering kernels.
If you’re looking for a teeth-healthy alternative snack, stay away from sugary cookies, cakes, and chips even if they don’t have any hulls. Fruits and vegetables are full of water and fiber that help clean your teeth. Dairy products that contain a lot of calcium like yogurt and cheese may help keep your teeth strong.
Eating popcorn on occasion isn’t going to make all your teeth fall out, but you should still be careful when snacking. If you eat it infrequently, be sure to avoid chewing the unpopped kernels when doing so and thoroughly floss afterward so you can keep your teeth healthy for all the times you laugh during the movie.
Dr. Mamata Ponnaganti earned her doctorate at Boston University’s Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine and has advanced training in key dental services such as oral sedation, laser dentistry, and dental implants. She is a proud member of the American Dental Association, the Florida Dental Association, and the Academy of General Dentistry. Her offices in Tampa and Clearwater, FL offer general, pediatric, restorative, and emergency dentistry. For more information on teeth-healthy snack options, contact her online.
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