Thanksgiving is coming up and that means turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, pie…and possibly cavities. Dr. Hamby, a family dentist in Fuquay Varina, is sharing the worst Thanksgiving foods for your dental health – including some that may surprise you. But don’t worry, it’s not all bad news, we’re also sharing Thanksgiving foods that will benefit your smile.
The Five Worst Thanksgiving Foods for Your Teeth
First, let’s get the “bad news” out of the way by looking at the five worst foods for your teeth, what makes them detrimental, and how you can mitigate any damage.
Pecan pie with its sticky nuts and thick, syrup filling is probably the worst thing on the Thanksgiving table for your teeth. The sugar and sticky pecans get stuck on your teeth and provide a buffet for acid-producing bacteria in your mouth.
Sweet Potato Casserole
Similar to pecan pie, sweet potato casserole is topped with candied nuts or marshmallows, leading to a sugary, sticky mess that adheres to your tooth enamel.
While stuffing certainly isn’t high in sugar, it is a heavy starch. Once a simple starch, such as bread, stuffing, or even mashed potatoes, hits your mouth, the saliva begins breaking that starch down into sugar. Even though it tastes different than chocolate or fruit juice, to the bacteria in your mouth, sugar is sugar and stuffing can cause damage if the particles aren’t removed.
Red wine doesn’t necessarily cause cavities, but it can stain your teeth, leading to unsightly yellowing and discoloration. If you want a glass of wine with dinner, consider rose or white wine that won’t cause the staining.
Canned Cranberry Sauce
Cranberry sauce is a bit misleading because cranberry juice can actually reduce plaque buildup by over 90 percent; thus, you’d think cranberry sauce would be just as good. Unfortunately, most commercially produced cranberry sauce is loaded with sugar, and this makes it one of the worst foods on the table.
Thanksgiving Foods That Are Better for Your Teeth
Fortunately, there are plenty of Thanksgiving favorites that can actually help your teeth, so, from dental perspective, make sure to choose these options.
Turkey is loaded with protein, has little sugar, and doesn’t stick or adhere to tooth enamel. While it may get stuck in your teeth, otherwise, this main course is a dental health winner.
Baked Sweet Potatoes
While candied sweet potatoes with sticky marshmallow or pecan topping is bad, sweet potatoes themselves are rich in vitamins A and C which support gum health. If you can leave off the sugar and toppings and go for a baked recipe just a touch of honey or natural maple syrup, this can be a much better option.
Green Bean Casserole
Green beans, mushrooms, and french fried onions are the main source of this popular side dish, and it’s lack of simple starch and sugar makes it a fairly safe option to avoid damage to your teeth.
Pumpkin pie is technically not good for your teeth as it does have sugar, but compared to the syrupy filling of apple pie or the stickiness of pecan pie, pumpkin is the best option. Plus, it is rich in vitamin A which supports gum health and hardens enamel.
Protecting Your Teeth During the Holidays
While most of our favorite Thanksgiving foods aren’t excellent for our teeth, it’s more important to practice moderation and good dental health care. Make sure you’re brushing twice a day and flossing daily, both during the holidays and beyond, plus drink plenty of water or chew sugar-free gum after meals to rinse away food particles.