By Jeff Farrell Independent.

The number of broken and chipped teeth has doubled since health conscious people started giving up “fatty” crisps as a snack in favour of so-called gourmet popcorn, dentists said.

Uncooked kernels are to blame for the problem, with cinema-goers often unsuspectingly biting down on one of the hard husks while engrossed in a film. Small pieces of the food can also often get lodged between teeth and if not treated quickly cause gum disease and even abscesses.

It comes as sales of popcorn have doubled in the past five years – amounting to more than £100m in sales – while the numbers buying crisps has fallen and the snack has now overtaken boiled sweets, fudge and caramel as the main culprit for causing dental damage, the dentists said.

Dr Mark Hughes, of the Harley Street Dental Group, said the number of patients who have turned up in the clinic with teeth problems caused by eating popcorn had soared.

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.”   Dr Uchenna Okoye, a director at the London Smiling Dental Group clinic, said the damage was often down to people who ate the snack while watching a film.

She said teeth can slip on popcorn and crash into each other and cause fissures and fractures.

Ms Okoye added that the food had now surpassed boiled sweets, fudge and caramel as the main snack that causes dental problems. She told the Sunday Telegraph: “They have been overtaken by popcorn and the number of cases is increasing all the time now that it is such a popular snack.” People who enjoy the food have spoken out to the newspaper after they suffered damage to their teeth.