When you think of Thanksgiving, chances are your mind conjures up a gigantic buffet of delicious foods: golden turkey, creamy mashed potatoes, freshly-baked pumpkin pie. Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday for getting together and sharing an elaborate meal with family, but it shouldn’t be an excuse to slack off on good oral health habits. Luckily, there are plenty of foods for healthy teeth that are already a part of a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. While you load up your dinner plate, be sure to pick some of these good-for-your-teeth options so you’re teeth are in tip-top shape when you go for your next check up.
Hit the Cheese Plate
Among the many appetizers that may be served at your Thanksgiving feast, the cheese plate is the food for healthy teeth. Eating cheese lowers the pH in your mouth, which can in turn neutralize plaque acid and reduce the risk for tooth decay. Additionally, the amount of chewing it takes to consume cheese can help stimulate saliva production. Since saliva rinses the mouth of bacteria, this may also help prevent tooth decay.
Cheese contains tooth-healthy nutrients like calcium and protein, which strengthen tooth enamel.
Load Up on Greens
A colorful plate is a healthy plate, and one of the best ways to make sure you’re getting enough foods for healthy teeth is to load your plate with greens. Vegetables like green beans, brussel sprouts, and spinach are all commonly found on the Thanksgiving table. These vegetables are high in vitamins and minerals and low in calories. Leafy greens like spinach are high in calcium, which helps strengthen your teeth’s enamel. Vegetables also contain high levels of folic acid, a type of B vitamin that has been shown to help prevent gum disease.
Pass the Cranberry Sauce
Cranberries are a staple at most Thanksgiving dinners, and luckily, cranberries are one of the best foods for healthy teeth. Cranberries contain compounds called polyphenols, which can help prevent bacteria from sticking to teeth and causing cavities. However, make sure your cranberry sauce doesn’t have too much added sugar, since sugar can negate the benefits of the polyphenols.
Skip the Starches
Starches like white bread and mashed potatoes may not seem like they’re bad for your teeth. However, foods like these break down in your mouth to form simple sugars. These sugars form a gummy paste that can stick onto teeth and provide food for decay-causing bacterias.
Instead, look for whole grain bread or sweet potatoes. Whole grain bread doesn’t break down into sugars as easily as white bread, which means less food for the bacteria in your mouth. The same goes for sweet potatoes, and they have the added benefit of being high in tooth-healthy vitamin A.
Eat Orange Vegetables
Thanksgiving is the season for all sorts of lovely orange vegetables. These vegetables, including pumpkin, squash, sweet potatoes, and carrots are great foods for healthy teeth since they’re all high in vitamin A. Vitamin A is another essential nutrient that your body uses to form strong tooth enamel.
Drink Tea with Dessert Instead of Coffee
After the turkey is carved and all the dinner plates are cleared, it’s time for dessert. With dessert usually comes coffee. However, coffee isn’t the best option for your teeth. Drinking too much coffee can stain your teeth, so instead, opt for some tea.
Like cranberries, tea contains polyphenols that slow the growth of the bacteria that causes tooth decay and gum disease. Tea also makes it more difficult for certain bacteria to clump with other bacteria.
Since caffeine can dry out your mouth, it’s best to opt for a tea with no or low caffeine. Herbal teas are decaffeinated, and green tea has less caffeine than black tea. Most teas have less caffeine than coffee, which still makes them the better option for your mouth.
Make sure you don’t add any sugar to your tea, or else you’ll negate all of the benefits. Sugar just provides more food for the plaque-causing bacteria on your teeth. If you don’t like your tea plain, try adding a bit of milk instead.
Wash Dessert Down with Milk
If you can muster the willpower, skipping dessert altogether is the best option for your teeth. Common Thanksgiving desserts like apple crisp and pumpkin pie have lots of sugar, which will wreak havoc on your teeth.
If you just have to have a piece of pie, take care of your teeth afterward. Drinking a glass of milk after having a sugary dessert can help protect your teeth from all that sugar. Milk can neutralize some of the acidic plaque in your mouth, slowing the growth of bacteria. If there’s no milk around, grab some of the cheese from that cheese plate!
Beware of Lurking Sugars
Unfortunately, a lot of Thanksgiving foods can have added sugars that may negate the health benefits. The bacteria in your mouth feeds on sugars, which can speed up the process of tooth decay.
Try making modified versions of dishes that use less added sugar, or skip the sweetened bits. For example, if you want to have some sweet potato casserole, try making a version without sugary marshmallows on top.
After you’ve taken some time to digest, be sure to brush your teeth after your big Thanksgiving meal. Brushing your teeth is the best way to make sure that any lingering sugar and bacteria is removed from your teeth so you can help prevent tooth decay.
Just like with all of your meals, there are lots of Thanksgiving foods for healthy teeth that you can choose from. The sheer amount of options that you have during a holiday dinner can be overwhelming, but you can prepare yourself to make some teeth-healthy options this year. After you’re done celebrating, be sure to schedule your child’s next dental checkup at Children’s Dentistry to make sure their teeth are in good shape after all that feasting. Contact us at any of our locations to make your child’s appointment today.