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November is a month of gratitude. It drums up images of Pilgrims and Native Americans sitting together at a table that is groaning under a bounty of harvest. The pilgrim hats have fallen out of style, but there are plenty of groaning tables and full bellies when Thanksgiving rolls are around. The actual history of our favorite Thursday of the year actually has little to do with Pilgrims and Squanto.

Thanksgiving and Your Teeth

(Pixabay / JillWellington)

In 1863, the Civil War was crawling slowly to a conclusion. The Confederacy had dominated the battles of the first two years, but the tides turned with Gettysburg and Vicksburg. Ulysses Grant was leading a unified Union Army, and General Sherman was his right-hand man in the Deep South. The Confederacy was beginning to weaken, and President Abraham Lincoln wanted to give thanks for the light of peace he was beginning to glimpse at the end of a very long and dark tunnel. He and his Secretary of State, William Seward, decided to declare the fourth Thursday of November an official day of thanks for the country.

Seward wrote the address for Lincoln to mark the occasion. Here are a few highlights:

“The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come. . . It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving”

Wait just a minute. Those are lovely words, Mr. Lincoln, but isn’t this a DENTIST’S blog??

Go with us on this one.

It is the time of Thanksgiving. And while friends, family, safety, freedom, and health are at the top of (hopefully) everyone’s list, we hope you take some time to express thanks to your mouth. It works hard for you and deserves some gratitude! Just what does your mouth do for you?

Chewing
This is the first, and perhaps most important, thing your mouth does for you. Thanksgiving dinner wouldn’t taste so good through a straw. Your teeth and tongue work hard to help you enjoy the feast on Thanksgiving, not to mention every other meal on every other day of the year. And let’s not even mention those bottles they’ve helped you open. Seriously, let’s not mention that. You really shouldn’t be doing that.

Talking
This would be very difficult without a mouth. Your teeth and tongue work together to make sounds possible. And that comes in handy when you are trying to say “Thank you,” or “Please pass the mashed potatoes.” There’s that chewing again.

First Line of Defense
Your mouth is your first line of defense in the immune system. The mouth is filled with saliva, which is a wonderful rinsing agent and a powerful antibacterial system. The multitude of germs that get into your body has to get through saliva first. It isn’t a glamorous job, but somebody has to do it.

Your mouth will be busy this Thanksgiving, and not just with the pie. We hope it is filled with words of gratitude, friendship, and lots and lots of laughter. 2020 has been quite a year for us. While we have not been “engaged in a great civil war,” we have certainly been engaged in unique challenges for our times. And gathering together for a delicious meal sounds like a pretty amazing way to celebrate all the good things in life.

We aren’t here to tell you what to eat or what not to eat on feast day! In fact, several of the most popular Thanksgiving day foods have wonderful health benefits. It’s true, take a look:

Turkey
The star of the feast has plenty of good healthy protein, so gobble up. (Yes, we did that on purpose.) It can get stuck in your teeth, so maybe take time to floss before the tryptophan kicks in and lulls you into the famous Thanksgiving nap.

Cranberries
Cranberries are actually heavy hitters in the antioxidant club. The problem is that they are usually cooked in lots of sugar when they make a Thanksgiving appearance. Try making a cranberry sauce on your own that uses a little less sugar. And if you do succumb to that sugar-filled stuff you buy in the can (we know it’s tempting), just make sure you give your mouth a good rinse after you eat it to get rid of some of the lingering sugar.

Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are chock full of Vitamin A and C, both immune system boosters. Dig in! Again, these are sometimes coated with marshmallows. Experiment with new recipes or just push the marshmallows aside if you want a tad healthier version of this favorite side dish.

Mashed Potatoes
Potatoes alone are a great source of Vitamin C. That can get overshadowed by all the butter and gravy, but at their heart, potatoes are there for you. It’s once a year, have fun—but maybe go easy on the gravy if you can.

Veggies and Salads
There are plenty of ways to have delicious vegetables on your Thanksgiving table! A couple of green salads, some yummy roasted vegetables, piles of green beans. There are so many wonderful vegetables that your entire mouth will enjoy, taste buds included!

We wish you the very happiest of Thanksgivings. Enjoy the treats, try to drink plenty of water, and maybe spend a little extra time brushing your teeth as a thank you for all their hard work. They deserve it.

Happy Thanksgiving from your Utah family dentistry team. We are grateful for your patronage and look forward to helping you show your hard-working teeth some love with regular check-ups to keep them clean and healthy.