Protecting your teeth on Turkey Day

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November 25th, 2019

With the busy holiday season upon us, many people may find themselves with little time to focus on their oral health. It’s very likely that all of us will be guilty of indulging in a treat or two that may not be the best choice for our teeth, but knowing the benefits or risks of certain foods ahead of time may help you when deciding how you fill your plate this Thanksgiving.

As always, to best protect your oral health, you should avoid the usual suspects:

  • Very sugary food or drinks
  • Highly acidic food or drinks
  • Foods that stick to your teeth
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Turkey, the star dish of this holiday, is actually a very tooth-friendly food. It’s high protein and low sugar content make it a great choice to fill up on during your Thanksgiving feast (after all, it’s called Turkey Day for a reason). If it happens to get stuck between your teeth, floss will come to the rescue!

Mashed potatoes are loaded with vitamin C, B6 and potassium, but they are also a very starchy food. Starch can cause tooth decay by lingering on your teeth and breaking down into simple sugar. When paired with gravy, the overall benefit to health is reduced, but this dish isn’t the worst thing for your oral health, especially if enjoyed in moderation.

Stuffing is another starch-packed side with a high amount of carbohydrates because it is often bread-based. These sugary carbs can lead to cavities. Stuffing is best consumed in small amounts along with your meal and followed by drinking lots of water.

Cranberry sauce often contains lots of extra sugar to combat the tart flavor of the cranberries making it one of the not so tooth-friendly foods on the dinner table. The acidity of the berries also increases the risk of cavities. However, if you are able to prepare fresh cranberry sauce at home rather than buying it from the store, you can control how much sugar is added or use a sugar substitute in your recipe.

Sweet potatoes/yams on their own are great for gum health because of the high vitamin A and C content. The catch here is that sweet potato pie or candied yam recipes often call for marshmallows, which are sticky and sometimes tough to remove from your teeth. If you add these to your plate, be sure to drink plenty of water to rinse your mouth.

Pie contains very high amounts of sugar and is often topped with whipped cream or ice cream, doubling down on that sugar content. Desserts generally contain the most potential pitfalls when it comes to your oral health, but if you enjoy in moderation and do what you can to protect your teeth, you can still enjoy a sweet ending to your holiday.

To give your teeth the best care, you should follow the same general guidelines on Thanksgiving that you stick to the rest of the year. If you do partake in any not so tooth-friendly foods, be sure to drink plenty of water to rinse your mouth and brush your teeth afterward. Keep up your regular routine— brush for two minutes twice a day and floss once per day. And, don't forget to be thankful for your healthy smile.

🦃 Happy Thanksgiving! 🥧

Information and guidance on this topic is referenced from the American Dental Association.