Sales of the trendy snack have doubled in recent years, as lovers of the treat can now enjoy an array of flavours from Gin and Tonic, fiery Worcester Sauce to Coconut & Caramel.
The ever-growing market is now worth £104 million and has been fuelled by health-conscious Britons shunning fatty snacks such as crisps for an alternative that will stop them from piling on the pounds.
But while their figures may be trim, their mouths tell a different story as dentists have revealed the snack is now more harmful to teeth than boiled sweets.
Popcorn-related problems such as broken and chipped teeth have doubled in the past three years, and dentists are adamant the gourmet varieties are ‘definitely’ to blame.
Chomping down on uncooked kernels is the main culprit, but small pieces can also get lodged between teeth and trigger abscesses, they warn.
Dr. Nigel Carter, chief executive of the Oral Health Foundation, told MailOnline: ‘There is definitely a risk of broken or chipped teeth associated with the growing popularity of popcorn as a healthier snack choice.
‘Unpopped kernels can be like little stones and if we’re not paying attention, biting down on one could easily result in a broken tooth and the pain and dental cost which comes with it.
‘It’s sometimes the things we don’t realise which cause broken teeth. In practice I saw a lot more which were the result of pork scratching or even crusty bread than came from sweets.
‘There is definitely a risk of broken or chipped teeth associated with the growing popularity of popcorn as a healthier snack choice.
‘Also, some of the fashionable varieties of popcorn, if they are not plain, are also surprisingly high in added sugar so could also be contributing to tooth decay.’
Posh popcorn is ‘definitely’ to blame
Dr. Richard Marques, of Wimpole Street Dental, told MailOnline: ‘The rise in popularity of “posh popcorn” in my opinion has definitely contributed to an increase in dental problems.
‘The kernels and husks can get trapped between the teeth and are very difficult to remove with floss.
‘They can also be very sharp and traumatise the gums leading to gum inflammations or infections.
‘The un-popped kernels are also very hard and can lead to chips and fractures of the teeth. When eating popcorn it is important to take care of the un-popped kernels to try and avoid them.’
Dr. Mark Hughes, a senior partner at the Harley Street Dental Group, said popcorn is now to blame for 10 per cent of dental problems he encounters, up from five.
He told The Sunday Telegraph: ‘In my 25 years as a dentist, popcorn is easily among the top five reasons for broken teeth.
‘Five years ago, I would perhaps see one case of a broken tooth in twenty caused by popcorn but in the last two or three years, that has risen to one in ten and the number is only going up.’
Other dentists said munching on popcorn while watching a film is often to blame, as people are too engrossed on the screen to look for kernels.
Worse than sweets
Dr. Uchenna Okoye, the official dentist for Channel 4’s ’10 Years Younger’, said popcorn had overtaken hard-boiled sweets as the biggest cause of broken teeth.
They also highlighted the dangers of popcorn husks, also known as the kernel shell, as they can get stuck in the gum line.
This can lead to abscesses and gum disease if left untreated, with the latter now worryingly linked to dementia, cancer and diabetes.
A well-known risk factor
Professor Damien Walmsley, the British Dental Association’s scientific adviser, told MailOnline: ‘In the dental community, it’s well known that popcorn is potentially very damaging to teeth.
‘The risk arises from biting hard on an un-popped kernel when you have a handful of popcorn in your mouth.
‘It’s a bit like having a ball-bearing wedged between your teeth, the pressure is great and your teeth are more likely to crack if they are filled.’