Thanksgiving is one of the biggest feasting days in America. Who doesn’t have a favorite among the turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, or delicious pies commonly associated with the holiday?
Unfortunately, all of that feasting (especially the sweet stuff!) isn’t particularly great for your oral health. However, it is possible to enjoy many popular Thanksgiving foods while keeping your mouth healthy.
All you have to do is use these simple strategies to protect your teeth.
You are probably well aware of the fact that sugar is a villain in the war against tooth decay. Dentists know you’ll likely consume some sugar on Thanksgiving, but it’s important to enjoy sugar in moderation and drink plenty of water after you eat sweet foods.
Take precautions when enjoying foods and drinks like these, and your teeth will be healthier for your efforts:
- Cranberry sauce. The high sugar content paired with acid can cause major havoc in your mouth if eaten alone.
- Candied yams. The sticky glaze can sit on your teeth for a long time.
- Pies, cakes, cookies, and ice cream. They are often loaded with sugar and best enjoyed with a meal to counteract their decay-causing properties.
- Soft drinks. It’s best to drink water or unsweetened tea with your Thanksgiving meal to save on calories as well as sugar.
Also remember, sugary foods are often sticky foods. That means they tend to stay on your teeth longer and can invite decay.
This doesn’t, however, mean that you need to forego them completely. Just make sure you enjoy them along with plenty of water and other foods to remove the sugar from your teeth.
Cranberry sauce, red wine, and coffee can cause temporary teeth stains on Thanksgiving. To prevent stains, enjoy these foods and drinks with a meal rather than by themselves.
Also, brush your teeth within an hour of feasting. Too soon, and you may cause enamel damage. Too late, and the stains will have ample time to set in.
Acidic foods affect the pH balance in your mouth, and can cause bacteria to multiply to unhealthy levels. By limiting the time acidic foods stay in your mouth, you will create a healthier environment for your teeth.
Cranberry sauce, tomatoes, and lemonade are acidic foods best enjoyed in moderation and along with other foods in order to neutralize their acidity. Also, be sure to drink water with your meal to wash the acid off your teeth.
Watch the starches
Many people love the mashed potatoes, stuffing, hot rolls, pasta dishes, and crackers that grace most Thanksgiving tables. However, these starchy foods turn gummy once chewed, and the starchy gum can really stick to your teeth and gums.
If left alone, bacteria in your mouth will feed on the starch and cause decay. To remove the starch, make sure to brush and floss after your meal.
Remember to floss
Some favorite Thanksgiving foods are known to get stuck in between your teeth. These foods commonly get stuck and may cause plaque buildup:
- Green beans
- Corn on the cob
For convenience, carry along floss picks to use after your meal. These are especially helpful if you are traveling to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner with family or friends. Simply use them within an hour of eating and your mouth will be much healthier.
The good news is that a typical Thanksgiving dinner is full of protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals you may not normally get in your daily meals. Turkey is a good source of lean protein. Sweet potatoes are high in vitamin A, and regular potatoes contain vitamin C and potassium.
You can enjoy many health benefits from these foods while engaging in a few other helpful Turkey Day strategies:
- Snack on veggies and nuts. Rather than crackers and high-fat cheese sauce or dips, choose raw veggies as your appetizer. Nuts and veggies create extra saliva which prevents decay. A caveat: limit your nut serving to a small handful to avoid excess calories.
- Enjoy reasonable portions of protein and starches. It may be tempting to take several slices of turkey and a big mound of mashed potatoes with gravy. By cutting that portion in half, though, you will have room for other healthy foods that won’t put such a strain on your digestive system and make you feel lethargic all afternoon.
- Savor smaller portions of sweets. Love pie? Try half a slice with just a small dollop of whipped cream. If you savor every bite, you’ll enjoy a small slice as much as a large slice. Plus, you’ll save your mouth a load of cavity-causing sugar (and your body the extra calories!).
Thanksgiving is about feasting and fun, yes, but it’s also about being thankful. Show your teeth and mouth “thanks” by making sure to brush twice per day, floss once per day, and keep regular dental appointments.