We don’t usually associate Thanksgiving with sugary foods. Rather, that distinction goes to the candy-heavy occasions of Halloween and Easter, followed by baking and sweet treats surrounding the holiday season.
Yet, this year, take a closer look at your menu. No matter if your family prefers pumpkin or sweet potato pie, stuffing or baked macaroni and cheese, your teeth end up exposed to a high amount of sugars and carbohydrates - two factors attracting bacteria that increase your risk for enamel loss and cavities.
To prepare, think about the following:
Tooth Health Concerns Around Thanksgiving
Be mindful of the following foods commonly found on Thanksgiving menus:
- Turkey: It’s the center of your feast, and as it’s a source of protein, we primarily don’t think of its impact on your dental health. Yet, its semi-fibrous nature often means that particles are easily lodged between your teeth.
- Sources of sugar: Generally, sugar exposure around Thanksgiving starts with cranberry sauce. Whether you use a canned version or cook your own from scratch, this staple ends up being sweet and sticky, plus a source of acid that also manages to stain your teeth. On top of this, watch out for candied or marshmallow-covered yams, as well as any desserts you plan to serve at the end of the meal.
- Starchy foods: Unless your menu centers around vegetables and proteins, starch-based foods play a close second to turkey within your spread. From macaroni and cheese to mashed potatoes, these Thanksgiving staples quickly provide a source of plaque for the bacteria living in your mouth, which increases your risks for cavities.
Dental Health Tips for Thanksgiving
Preserve your teeth through Thanksgiving and the rest of the holiday season with the following tips:
- Drink plenty of water: Within your mouth, drinking water encourages saliva production, and washes away food particles sticking to your teeth, including sugar. These aspects together help reduce plaque accumulation. Along with these benefits, water keeps you hydrated, helping you feel full and controlling your appetite.
- Be selective with appetizers: While you want to make your guests feel welcome, avoid starting the event with starchy appetizers. Rather, balance the main course with more teeth-friendly foods, including cheese, which helps preserve enamel, and raw vegetables, which can increase saliva production.
- Balance your menu: As you’re planning what to serve, keep offerings in balance. Along with turkey, a starch like mashed potatoes and select dishes with sugar, include a few vegetable-based sides: homemade green bean casserole is one choice, as are roasted Brussel sprouts or a spinach salad.
- Be mindful of what you bite down on: Avoid biting into nutshells and hard candies, as well as chewing on ice, and never attempt to remove a bottle cap with your teeth. All habits increase your chance of a broken tooth.
- Don’t slack on your dental routine: Considering these risks, brush at least twice per day - if not after every meal - and floss to remove food particles stuck between your teeth.
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