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How Traditional Thanksgiving Foods Affect Your Teeth

As we look for our nicest, but comfiest, pants in preparation for the biggest meal of the year, we are also looking at the effects all of our Thanksgiving favorites will have on the teeth.  None of this is intended to scare you into not enjoying the holiday.  We just want you to brush and floss before you pass out in your easy chair during the football game.


Turkey is actually pretty good for your teeth since it is a healthy protein.  Eat your fill of it with no regrets!  Just make sure you have some dental floss handy to get those stringy sections that become caught between the teeth.

Leaving food between the teeth can cause problems on both the teeth and gums.  In the case of turkey, the gums are a bigger concern as impaction will irritate them and lead to inflammation.


Whatever you want to call it, it’s chock full of carbs.  Whether it’s cornbread dressing or traditional bread stuffing, all of that bread is basically just a load of simple carbohydrates, a.k.a. “sugars”.  If this stays between the teeth or in the grooves and pits on the chewing surfaces, it can lead to cavities.  We all have cavity-causing bacteria in our mouths, and it eats sugar in order to produce acid and penetrate through tooth enamel.

Candied Yams/Sweet Potato Casserole

This is another high-carb side dish.  The yams and sweet potatoes are pretty high in sugars on their own.  Then we pack them with brown sugar, molasses or maple syrup.  Let’s be honest, friends.  This is straight up dessert.  We’re not sure how it snuck its way into the category of side dishes.


Cranberries are a double-whammy for the teeth.  Not only are the high in sugar, they are also super acidic.  During the cavity process, as we described earlier, the bacteria convert sugar into an acid that weakens the enamel, allowing it to break through.  When you eat something that is both full of sugar and acidic, you are making it easier for the bacteria to penetrate enamel.

All the Pies (but Pecan is the Worst)

Don’t be mad at us!  When we say “pecan is the worst”, we only mean it’s the worst for your teeth.  We are NOT taking sides in the pumpkin v. pecan debate.  We’re sure whatever your mom makes is the best!

Back to the teeth, though . . . Pecan pies have such a sticky consistency that it keeps the sugar on your teeth for much longer than that smooth, creamy pumpkin does.  Pumpkin is actually a vegetable, so technically, it has some more complex carbohydrates in it.  And don’t forget that you can eat pecan pie year round, but you only get pumpkin during the holiday season . . . Okay, so maybe we are a little biased.  😉

All the Wine

Wine is like cranberries, the double-whammy.  It is full of sugar and acidic in pH.  Wine also leaves a nice telltale sign on the teeth (red wine, that is…).  When you show up and Aunt Sally’s teeth are already purple, that means she was really anxious about those strong political views you have…. Just be nice and talk about the weather (but not global warming) or school (but not COVID restrictions).  Okay, scratch that.  Keep your mouth shut, and enjoy the wine!

How to Protect Your Teeth from These Traditional Goodies

Again, we’re not telling you all of this to stress you out or convince you to not partake of your favorite foods.  We only want to stress the importance of great oral hygiene during the holiday season.  Make sure you stay committed to brushing and flossing after those wonderful meals.  If you’re someone who has a high risk for cavities, talk to Dr. Ann about getting a professional fluoride treatment to strengthen your enamel during the holiday season.  We can also recommend some great oral care products to help you keep your teeth strong amid the pie/wine storm to which you subject them.  We are here to help you maintain a healthy, beautiful smile.

Wishing You and Yours a Safe and Happy Thanksgiving!

From Dr. Ann and the team at Designer Smiles