The Thanksgiving season is full of family, fun and food, but it can also be a day when our dental health deteriorates, as well. The sugary pies, candied yams and cranberry sauce that we consume on Thanksgiving all take a hit at our teeth and can leave our tooth enamel worn out. These, along with sugary apple cider and other drinks, can eat away at this protection until our teeth are left with cavities. Once cavities form, it can be painful and expensive to fix. Here are the most popular Thanksgiving foods, what those foods and others do to the teeth and tips to avoid tooth decay!
Most Popular Thanksgiving Foods
When most people think of Thanksgiving, they tend to think of all the delicious foods that come around that time of year. Pumpkin pie, turkey, and stuffing are just a few examples. Thanksgiving is always celebrated on the last Thursday of November, but history shows that the first Thanksgiving celebrations (back in 1621) actually spanned 3 days instead of 1. Imagine all the food you could eat in 3 days!
No matter what kind of celebration you do with your family members, food is almost always involved, and many families actually eat the same foods together. Insider magazine’s recent survey found the most popular Thanksgiving foods in the United States. Ranked in order, the those include:
- Mashed Potatoes
- Macaroni and Cheese
- Cranberry Sauce
- Green Bean Casserole
- Sweet Potatoes/Sweet Potato Casserole
- Brussel Sprouts
- Creamed Spinach
- Candied Yams
- Glazed Carrots
For some, turkey is not the main entree for their Thanksgiving. In fact, Italian families often feature spaghetti and meatballs (of some variety) as their main course. The sides for your main dish may also change depending on the area of the United States you live, such as green bean casserole in the Midwest and corn pudding in the south. The great thing about the Thanksgiving holiday is that you can make it your own!
What Can Thanksgiving (and Other Foods) Do to Your Teeth?
Why so much talk about food? Foods and drinks directly correlate to how healthy your teeth are! We love a great Thanksgiving meal, but we also don’t want to see a spike in tooth decay and gum disease right after the few months of holidays (Halloween through New Years) that happen.
At least 92% of Americans have had tooth decay—known as “cavities”—sometime during their life. When eating, your mouth bacteria starts to break down food for digestion. Other mouth bacteria mixes with sugar in your food to create plaque. Plaque is a sticky, clear, and acidic substance that sits on your teeth. The acid in it will break up the minerals in your teeth, causing dead areas called “cavities”. The acid will also make your gums recede, showing the tooth roots.
The more acidic or sugary substances you eat, the more plaque your mouth creates and the more likely your teeth are to recede. Always check food labels to know sugar content and ingredient lists for acids. Try to only drink acidic drinks (such as sodas or juices) for special occasions like Thanksgiving instead of all the time. Thanksgiving foods themselves may not make a huge impact in developing tooth decay if you are always vigilant about keeping your sugar and acidic foods low in your diet.
Tips for Good Oral Hygiene
It’s actually not hard to take care of your oral health, even when statistics for oral health problems seem so daunting. It only takes a few tips and a few minutes of care during your day to keep your smile strong and shining for all the years to come. Here are some tips to make sure you are following:
- The ADA recommends brushing your teeth with quality toothpaste at least twice a day to avoid dental decay. Brush your teeth for at least 2 minutes at a time and especially before bed.
- If you skip flossing, then you miss about 40% of your tooth surfaces that can decay. So floss those pearly whites 1-2 times a day!
- Avoid tobacco and alcohol products, if possible, as these substances can kill delicate nerves in the gums and will erode the teeth.
- The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends visiting a dentist at least twice a year for comprehensive exams and dental cleanings. Do this right after the holidays to make sure the teeth are free of decay from the holidays.
Protecting Your Teeth During Thanksgiving
Honestly, brushing your teeth before and after your Thanksgiving meal is the best way to reduce your risk for tooth decay and dental issues. This can help dislodge food in the gums (especially harder foods) that can cause irritation after a meal. For example, if your teeth or gums have ever hurt after eating chips, there could be a small chip bit stuck in your gum. Brushing removes food particles such as these.
However, studies have shown that foods and drinks that are acidic (such as apple cider or carbonated drinks, citrus fruits, etc.) can have acids that stay on your teeth up to 30 minutes after you consume them. That means you with brush around active acids on the teeth that can take some enamel layers off. That’s why you want to wait to brush your teeth until 20-30 minutes after your meal. If you eat all day long, brush between mealtimes.
Benefits of Fluoride
Brush with a fluoride toothpaste to remove plaque and to strengthen the teeth. Fluoride is a naturally-occurring mineral that has been found to act as a shield on the teeth against decay- or erosion-causing foods and drinks. 30 minutes before your Thanksgiving meal, brush your teeth and use fluoride rinses (such as in many mouthwashes) so that you have an extra layer of protection for your teeth during your meal. For more tips and tricks for keeping your teeth healthy during this holiday season, call Dr. Evanson’s office today at (720) 409-0008!Leave a reply →