The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Thanksgiving Foods & Our Teeth, With Beaverton, OR Family Dentist
Thanksgiving is fast approaching, and we’re so excited for all the delicious turkey day foods and treats! Some of the classic Thanksgiving Day foods are surprisingly great for our teeth – others, not so much. Here is a rundown of the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to popular Thanksgiving foods!
Turkey: The star of the Thanksgiving table is also fortunately quite good for our teeth! Turkey doesn’t contain starch or sugar, and it’s also a good source of vitamin D – which supports tooth mineralization and enamel strength.
Vegetables: Cooked and roasted Thanksgiving veggies like green beans, brussel sprouts and squash provide tooth-healthy vitamins and minerals. Uncooked vegetables are especially good for teeth, so a raw veggie platter is a great addition to your Thanksgiving feast! Chewing on the firm texture and fibers of raw, crunchy vegetables like carrots, cucumber and celery helps “scrub” teeth and increases saliva production, which helps rinse away sugars and food debris from your mouth.
Sweet Potatoes: These delicious, orange root vegetables serve up a good source of vitamins C and A, both important for gum health. Just be careful if your sweet potatoes are candied or topped with marshmallows – enjoy in moderation and take sips of water afterwards to help rinse away cavity-causing sugars.
Cheese & Nuts: Cheese is packed with tooth strengthening calcium, while chomping on nuts increases saliva production, helping to lower acidity levels in the mouth and rinse away sugars and food debris.
Pumpkin Pie: Even though pumpkin pie contains a fair amount of sugar, it typically has less sugar than most pies and is also a fantastic source of calcium (essential for strong teeth and bones) and vitamin C (important for gum health). Be careful with pumpkin pie topped with whipped cream or marshmallows – try not to overindulge, and sip water afterwards to help rinse away the sugar.
Alcohol: There’s no harm in the occasional glass of holiday wine or beer, and red wine in particular may even have some oral and heart health benefits. However, overindulging in alcohol negates any health benefits, and can also dry out the mouth, reduce saliva production, and erode tooth enamel.
Cranberry Sauce: Though a staple of the Thanksgiving table, cranberry sauce is highly acidic, which can weaken tooth enamel, is usually prepared with high amounts of sugar, and its dark color can also stain teeth. However, cranberry sauce is also full of gum-supporting vitamins A and C, and contains antioxidants that may help protect against oral bacteria. Prepare homemade cranberry sauce with minimal sugar if possible, enjoy in moderation, and sip water afterwards to help prevent staining as well as sugar and acid buildup.
Caramel Corn: Anyone who has gotten popcorn bits stuck between in their teeth knows that popcorn can be a literal pain in the mouth. In some cases, popcorn husks can even get lodged so deeply that they need to be removed professionally to prevent causing permanent damage to the gums or tooth enamel! Caramel corn is especially egregious because of its sticky-sweet coating. The sticky caramel can easily get embedded in the crevices of our molars and coat teeth, leading to a buildup of bacterial plaque and increased risk of cavities.
Pies & Desserts: There’s nothing wrong with finishing off your Thanksgiving meal with a slice of pie, but keep in mind that desserts like pecan pie, chocolate mousse, ice cream and brownies are your teeth’s mortal enemies – and, loaded with starch and sugar, they are oral bacteria’s best friends. Indulge in a sweet treat or two, but always follow up with sips of water to help wash away all that sugar and starch.
Mashed Potatoes: Though a delicious and essential part of the Thanksgiving feast, mashed potatoes are incredibly starchy, and surprisingly not much better for your teeth than the sweetest Thanksgiving desserts! Mashed potatoes can easily linger in between teeth and in molars’ crevices, and when starch breaks down into sugar, bacteria feeds on it and produces tooth decay-causing acids.
Rolls & Stuffing: Like mashed potatoes, rolls and stuffing are starch- and carbohydrate-heavy, which oral bacteria thrives on. Whole grain breads and rolls are a better choice for your teeth – they break down into sugar less easily than white breads. We encourage including crunchy textures in your stuffing like chopped apples and walnuts – they are both tasty and beneficial for dental health! And again, enjoy in moderation and drink water afterwards.
Whatever your Thanksgiving plate looks like this year, we hope you enjoy it thoroughly! But because oral health and hygiene is important every day of the year, remember these tips:
Enjoy in moderation
Drink plenty of water before, during and after your meal(s)
Brush and floss your teeth daily throughout this holiday season, and every day!
Have a very Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
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