Finally, fall is here. That means warm sweaters, pumpkin-flavored lattes, and of course, Thanksgiving. There’s nothing quite like gathering around the table with friends and family, indulging in the best the season has to offer.
Americans look forward to the feast every year, dreaming of piling their plates high with turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, and more.
Before you load up this holiday, though, you might want to think twice about what’s going on your plate. While there are some Thanksgiving foods that are good for your teeth, it turns out that there are some that should be avoided.
Bad-for-Your-Teeth Thanksgiving Foods
Let’s start with the bad news first, and take a look at the foods served at a Thanksgiving feast that are bad for your teeth. That way you’ll know exactly what foods to walk right on by this turkey day.
Cranberries are tart, and cranberry sauce is usually loaded with sugar. Both of these elements make cranberry sauce bad for your teeth. The sugar and acid will destroy your enamel. Also, it’s likely to stain your teeth.
For many, a warm slice of pecan pie is the best part of any Thanksgiving meal. Unfortunately, the high amounts of sugar in pecan pie (and most others) threaten your enamel and increase your risk for cavities.
All alcohol types (even that glass of wine) are rich in sugar. The sugars in alcohol can wear your tooth enamel down and increase your risk for cavities. A mouth that is too acidic can result in permanent damage to your teeth in the form of cavities and other decay.
Many alcohols are also very acidic and acid weakens tooth enamel. This can lead to an increased risk of tooth decay and permanent staining.
Because it softens the enamel, you should avoid brushing your teeth for 30 minutes after drinking an acidic drink, such as a glass of wine, a cold beer, or that Irish coffee.
Stuffing and Bread Baskets
Stuffing, cornbread, rolls, and similar side dishes are rich in starch. Starch is made up of sugars, and bacteria love to feed off these sugars. Try to avoid these sides altogether to decrease your risk of cavities and tooth decay.
If You Must Indulge, Follow These Tips
- Eat only small portions of the “bad” foods
- Follow up with a glass of water directly after eating them
- Be sure to follow up your Thanksgiving meal with a good floss, brush, and mouthwash
Good-for-Your-Teeth Thanksgiving Foods
Fortunately, there are plenty of Thanksgiving foods in your spread that you can safely indulge in without harming your teeth.
It’s one tradition you don’t have to skip in order to keep a healthy smile at Thanksgiving! Turkey is rich in protein, and protein helps promote strong, healthy teeth. It also helps protect the enamel of your teeth. Strong enamel is crucial for preventing cavities.
Don’t pass the veggie tray or the fresh vegetable salads! Fresh vegetables are rich in a variety of vitamins and minerals. The more colorful, the better.
The leafy green options are high in calcium, which makes for strong, healthy teeth. Orange and red options are high in vitamin C, which promotes healthy gums. These veggies can help prevent bleeding of the gums as well as gingivitis.
Green Bean Casserole
If you’re looking for something more exciting than chopped veggies to add to your plate, a scoop of the green bean casserole is a good option.
So go ahead! All of the main ingredients – green beans, mushrooms, and onions – have health benefits for your teeth and body.
Baked or Mashed Yams
As long as you hold off on the marshmallows and other sugary topics, yams alone are not bad for your teeth. In fact, they’re quite rich in vitamins A and C, which help promote good health for the teeth and gums.
Cheese and Nut Boards
Although not always a mainstay of Thanksgiving meals, plates of cheese and nuts are often set out as an appetizer. Feel free to enjoy them!
The calcium in cheese strengthens teeth, and the protein in both snacks helps prevent cavities. Also, chewing nuts promotes the production of saliva in the mouth, which helps prevent bacteria from building up.
Pumpkin is rich in vitamin A, which helps keep your teeth healthy and strengthens the enamel. Of course, there is some sugar in pumpkin pie, especially if you top it with whipped cream, so don’t go too crazy.
There’s no need to avoid Thanksgiving altogether this year if you want to protect your teeth. You’ll just need to be smart about what you put on your plate, as well as what you sip on. You can even enjoy a slice of pumpkin pie at the end of your meal!