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Is Popcorn Bad for Your Teeth?: A Dental Perspective on this “Healthy Snack”

Posted on Oct 29, 2012 by DentalVibe
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Is Popcorn Bad for Your Teeth?:  A Dental Perspective on this “Healthy Snack”

Who doesn't love popcorn? Whether watching a movie, hanging out with friends, or taking a stroll through the county fair, it's a treat we can't get enough of. They might call it "popcorn" because of the way it's made, but we like to think of it as the snack we can't stop pop-ping into our mouths!

But is popcorn good for you? Actually, there isn't a clear-cut answer to that. Where the waistline is concerned, popcorn is naturally a high-fiber, low-calorie, low-fat, sugar-and-sodium-free food, which means it's a great weight loss snack. That's plain popcorn, though. 

Whether Popcorn is a Healthy Snack Depends on How You Define "Healthy"

Much of the popcorn we buy pre-packaged from vending machines, refreshment carts, or grocery stores is loaded with fat, salt, butter, grease, and other flavor-enhancing agents that pack on the calories, sodium, and more. 

Movie theater popcorn is notoriously unhealthy. While there are some exceptions, most cinemas use coconut oil with heavy butter to make their popcorn, and then offer additional condiments as optional toppings. The result can add up to several days' worth of recommended calories and fat in a single popcorn bag. 

Popcorn & Oral Health: What's Good for the Waist may not be Good for the Teeth

But what about on the dental side of the health spectrum? While plain, air-popped corn can be a healthy snack in other regards, popcorn is unfortunately rather damaging to the teeth. 

The sugars and carbohydrates that occur naturally in popcorn interact with the bacteria found naturally in the mouth, producing lactic acid that wears away at a tooth's enamel. While plenty of snacks cause that same reaction, popcorn produces more lactic acid than most. 

Within just a few minutes of eating popcorn, the acid is already wearing away at the teeth. The more popcorn you eat and the longer it stays in your mouth, the more substantial the effect.

Dental Pain and Other Problems Caused by Popcorn Could Become Serious

Popcorn kernels can also easily become lodged between teeth or in between a rear tooth and the gums. This can quickly result in cracked teeth or abscesses that lead to pain, infection, and even cancer. Should infection take hold, it can spread to the bloodstream and affect the entire body.

So does that mean you should never eat popcorn again? Like most things in life, moderation is probably best. Eat popcorn on rare occasions and in small amounts, and always make sure you pay attention to labels so you can avoid the most fattening kinds. 

Always follow popcorn with thorough brushing, flossing, and antimicrobial mouthwash. A quick rinse with water after eating popcorn can help too. Just remember: the next time you pop, know when to stop, and always practice good dental hygiene. 

Would you change the kind of popcorn you eat (or how often you eat it) to protect your teeth or lose weight?

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