The Surprising Ways Popcorn Is Damaging Your Teeth

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Medically reviewed by Othman Lahmaydi, RDH

Popcorn is a popular snack that is enjoyed around the world. It’s hard to imagine a good movie without a bowl of salty popcorn on the side. But this tasty snack can damage your teeth.

Unpopped popcorn kernels can crack your teeth, and the cracks can worsen over time, leading to teeth breaking and other issues. Popcorn hulls can also get stuck in your gums and, if left untreated, cause infections. Regular flossing and brushing are some ways to reduce these negative effects. 

Luckily, there are ways of preventing the damage popcorn can do to your teeth. Flossing, brushing, and getting a regular cleaning at the dentist are effective methods of ensuring your oral health is at its best at all times, regardless of how much popcorn you eat.  

What Does Popcorn Do to Your Teeth?

Portrait of beautiful young woman eating popcorn while watching movie in living room

While normal, every-day popcorn (example on Amazon) is surely a beloved snack around the world, it can be harmful for your teeth. These harmful effects are more than just some bits of popcorn getting in your teeth. Here are some of the negative effects of popcorn on your oral health: 

Cracked Teeth

When you’re eating popcorn at a speed, you’re not always so careful and can bite into an unpopped kernel. This puts a lot of force on your mouth and while it may or may not break the kernel, it can put enough strain to crack your tooth. 

A cracked tooth can not only lead to pain, but it also exposes your tooth to food debris and temperature changes in your mouth. Extremely cold or hot drinks can seep into the cracks, making the situation even worse, and exacerbating the original crack in your tooth. 

The pain of cracked teeth can often come and go, however, just because the pain subsides doesn’t mean the problem is solved.

Bacteria, debris, and decay can leak into these microscopic cracks even with meticulous oral hygiene. This is called microleakage, and it can cause decay to reach the nerve and cause even more serious issues.

Teeth cracks need immediate attention from a dentist.

Damaged Restorations  

If you’re a popcorn fan who’s had some dental restorations done, this may bring further unfortunate news. Unpopped kernels in popcorn can damage not only your teeth but also any dental restorations you’ve had done. 

The Journal of Oral Implantology further suggests that regular popcorn can even damage dental implants. Unpopped kernels can cause stress on the implants and cause them to get weaker over time. 

Gum Abscesses

Oftentimes, when popcorn hulls get stuck between your teeth or under your gums, you can brush your teeth and floss and that will help to remove them. However, many times people don’t even know that they have these hulls stuck between their gums. This is where the problems start to arise. 

Over time this can not only become uncomfortable and painful but lead to serious gum disease and potentially dangerous gum abscesses. If a kernel or hull of a popcorn gets stuck in your gum it should immediately be removed.

Once a popcorn hull gets trapped under the gums, it can cause inflammation. If it stays there for too long, the hull can get stuck in the gum tissue, and this is what leads to abscesses, or gum boils. 

How to Keep Your Teeth Healthy While Eating Popcorn

Happy woman eating popcorn watching television

While popcorn may have its fair share of negative effects, there are ways of preventing or at least minimizing them. Here are a few things you can do for your oral care after snacking on popcorn. 

Start by removing debris from your mouth; particles of popcorn, hulls, and kernels can often get trapped in your gums. They need to be cleaned out and removed. Brushing and flossing regularly are two great ways of ensuring that your mouth is free from any popcorn leftovers. 

You can use a soft bristle toothbrush, such as the Nimbus Extra Soft Toothbrush (on Amazon), along with some fluoride toothpaste to make sure your mouth is clean, and to ensure the brush doesn’t hurt your gums.

Always wait at least 30 minutes before brushing after a meal. However, you can floss and rinse immediately afterward.

You can also go to a dentist for a professional deep cleaning. This cleaning will fully guarantee removal of anything that might be stuck in your teeth. While a professional deep clean may be expensive, it is certainly worth it. 

As an added tip, toothpicks should be avoided. Toothpicks have shown to injure gums while in use and therefore should be avoided. 

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