Full Bellies and Healthy Smiles 

Protecting Your Dental Health This Thanksgiving 

We all have our Thanksgiving traditions, whether that’s a certain dish made by a favorite aunt, a particular movie played every year, or a game of football in the backyard with all the cousins. Thanksgiving revolves around these traditions—most famously, of course, the ones involving turkey and pumpkin pie. However, one tradition you don’t want to add to your Thanksgiving season is going to get a cavity filled. What can you do if you love sweet potatoes with marshmallow glaze but don’t want to ruin your teeth? We’re here to talk about questions like that today as we explore tips for the Thanksgiving meal, the day itself, and for the whole holiday season. Hopefully, this will enable you to have not just a full belly, but a happy smile, too.  

Tips for the Feast 

Unlike some holidays (Halloween, for instance), Thanksgiving actually has some redeeming qualities about it in terms of your dental health. Are you surprised to hear that? Think about it—what sorts of things do your teeth need to be healthy? Well, for starters, they need protein and phosphorous—two things that are found in abundance in America’s favorite Thanksgiving dish, Turkey! So eating turkey actually strengthens your teeth and fortifies them against cavities. Turkey doesn’t contain any sugar or starch either, which is a plus. So far, so good.  

Your teeth also love vitamin A and vitamin C. Did you know these two vitamins are in sweet potatoes? It’s true! That’s the good news about sweet potatoes—on their own, they contain wonderful vitamins for your teeth. The bad news is that during Thanksgiving, sweet potatoes are often candied and topped with gooey marshmallows and caramelized pecans that taste delicious but wreak havoc on your teeth. This sugary, sticky concoction breaks down your enamel, and the sticky goop can cling to your teeth long after it should have dissolved. We recommend steering clear of candied sweet potatoes, or at least eating them in moderation. If they’re prepared that way, you could always politely remove the marshmallows and candied nuts from your portion. If you’re the one doing the preparation, there are other wonderful ways to prepare vitamin-packed sweet potatoes that don’t involve sticky-gooey marshmallows or nuts that get stuck in your teeth!  

Okay, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, protein, phosphorus—we’ve covered a few things your teeth need to be healthy that are hiding on your overflowing Thanksgiving plate. Ready for more? Folic acid, fiber, and Vitamin K also do crucial work in keeping your teeth healthy and strong. One surprising place you can find all three of these is in green bean casserole! You get bonus points if the green bean casserole has mushrooms in it, too, because then it will be chock-full of B vitamins that will reduce any inflammation that may be going in your mouth. It’s a win-win.  

Those are just a few suggestions for Thanksgiving foods that may benefit your teeth more than they could hurt them. As you load up your plate, be on the lookout for foods that are rich in calcium and protein, and low in sugars or starch.  

Tips for the Day 

Even if you make the best choices when it comes to your plate, there’s only so much you can do to protect your oral health. It is a holiday, after all. Most likely, you had at least one slice of pumpkin pie. We’re not telling you not to do that (and on the bright side, pumpkin is actually one of the best pies for you, as pumpkin is loaded with Vitamin C. But in light of the feast we consume, we might need to take a little extra care of our teeth on Turkey Day. 

Wash It Down with Water 

Sticky foods like sweet potatoes, starches like rolls, staining foods like cranberry sauce… you don’t want any of that to stick to your teeth. Water is your friend on Turkey Day. Keep your glass of water handy, and frequently wash down what you eat with a sip of plain water. This simple hack can also help your waistline: drinking enough water will tell your body that you are full sooner and help prevent overeating.  

Brush Halfway Through 

The official recommendation of the ADA is to brush your teeth twice a day for two minutes each time. However, on a day like Thanksgiving, when you’ll likely eat a large meal and might even continue snacking on the fare throughout the day, you might want to consider brushing halfway through the day. That way, you cleanse your teeth from any sugar that’s clinging on and give your teeth a break from the duress of the day.  

Floss as Needed 

Even the best soups, most delicious pies, and most sumptuous rolls can come back to bite us later by wedging themselves into a corner or crevice of our teeth and stubbornly refusing to leave. On Turkey Day, keep a pack of floss or a few floss picks handy. That way, if something irritates you, or you notice your teeth aren’t feeling clean, you can deal with it right away.  

Tips for the Season 

That’s it—it’s the morning after Thanksgiving, and you wake up having made all the good dental health choices we talked about. You’re feeling pretty good about yourself; your biggest complaint is the lingering feeling of being overstuffed from that second plate of turkey. You even brushed and flossed mid-day.  

You might be tempted to put the day behind you as a win for both the food and your dental health, but don’t be too hasty. Cavities can creep in slowly. And what’s more, the holiday season isn’t over—in fact, it’s just beginning. We all know families who break out the Christmas music as they’re washing the dishes from Thanksgiving. Where Christmas celebration is, sugary Christmas foods are sure to follow.  

In light of the Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s holiday season that can do damage to both your waistline and your teeth, you may want to consider trying to time your six-month dental check-ups for sometime in January or February. That way, if you did end up having a little too much apple cider over Thanksgiving or one too many candy canes at Christmas, the dentist can get on top of the issues before they become too serious. This will set you off on the right foot when it comes to dental health for the whole year. 

We want your Thanksgiving tradition to be one of healthy teeth. If you have any other questions about your dental health and the holiday season, please feel free to reach out. If you’d like to schedule your next appointment, contact our Arlington Family Dental team today.

Happy holidays!  

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About Our Team

Our team has over 30 years of combined experience in the field of dentistry and a passion for educating our patients on the importance of good dental hygiene. To learn more about them, please visit our team page 

Our staff is dedicated to making sure that your entire experience is the best it can possibly be. Whatever your needs are, our team is trained to listen and offer the best advice and guidance in choosing the services that best meet your needs. 

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