Dental Habits of Pilgrims & Native Americans

dental health now vs dental health of the pilgrimsSince 1863, the United States has been celebrating a day of feast, complete with turkey, pies, stuffing, and too much more deliciousness to name. But Thanksgiving isn’t just about eating a plentiful dinner and slipping into a tryptophan-induced afternoon nap, it’s a day dedicated to reflecting on all we are thankful for, gathering around the table with friends and family, and enjoying a meal prepared by all.

While Thanksgiving has only been an official holiday since the days of Abraham Lincoln, the tradition of gathering together to enjoy a large dinner with friends has been in around since the Pilgrims and Native Americans enjoyed the first Thanksgiving meal together. Although the custom of joining together and eating hasn’t changed much since those first Thanksgiving dinners, oral health care sure has.

With all of the advancements in modern dentistry, it’s difficult to imagine a life where there weren’t toothbrushes available at every supermarket, drug store, and gas station, but there was a time when folks didn’t even know what a toothbrush was. At my dental office in Lewisburg, we want to dedicate this seasonal blog to talking about how Pilgrims and Native Americans took care of their grins and how dental health, along with dental care, has changed.

The Pilgrims

It’s a bit of an understatement to say that the Pilgrims didn’t have the best oral hygiene standards. They didn’t have access to proper toothbrushes and toothpaste because they hadn’t been invented yet! Instead, Pilgrims used leaves, herbs, and salt rubbed directly onto their teeth to clean their not-so-pearly whites. For a toothbrush, pig hair was affixed to a twig or animal bone, or sometimes pine bristles were used. Basically, the Pilgrims, who were new to the States and unfamiliar with what was available to them, used whatever items they could find to clean their teeth. Today, we have multiple types of toothbrushes, toothpaste flavors, floss, and other dental hygiene products. Not to mention we have the ability to see a trained dentist in Lewisburg twice a year for checkups and when we have a problem.

The Native Americans

Chances are, the Native Americans had better overall dental health than the Pilgrims. Not only were they more familiar with the land and what was available to them, their diet was healthier. Like the Pilgrims, they also used herbs like sage to clean their teeth, but they used the cucacua plant to make a substance similar to toothpaste. Additionally, while the Pilgrims were eating dried meat and fruits, beans, and a lot of hardtack –  a dry biscuit made of flour, water, and salt – the Native Americans were living off the land and eating more balanced meals of veggies, nuts, and berries. Therefore, they were eating fewer smile-damaging foods to begin with.

This Thanksgiving, take a tip from the Native Americans and try to eat a well-balanced plate (or plates!) of food and try to take it easy on the sugar-filled sweets. And when you’re reflecting on what you’re thankful for, don’t forget to be thankful for toothbrushes, toothpaste, floss, and modern dentistry as a whole. For it is these advancements in dentistry, plus visits to my Lewisburg dental office, that allow us to have healthy, white smiles every Thanksgiving and all the days in between.

Serving patients in Lewisburg, Selinsgrove, and Williamsport.

Diabetes and Oral Health

 national diabetes awareness monthNovember is American Diabetes Month, during which we dedicate the entire 30 days to encouraging communities to come together and raise awareness of diabetes. While there is no cure for this disease that plagues nearly 30 million Americans, research continues to bring us closer to answers, make advancements in treatment, and link diabetes with other health problems.

Those with diabetes have surely learned that uncontrolled diabetes can contribute to problems throughout your body – your eyes, nerves, kidneys, and heart can all be affected by diabetes. However, we find at my dental office in Lewisburg that many of these individuals aren’t aware of the potential oral health complications that may also arise.

For example, people battling diabetes have an increased chance of developing gum disease. Not simply because those with diabetes have an increased susceptibility to bacteria, but they also have a decreased ability to fight it off. This makes flossing, brushing, and visiting your dentist in Lewisburg regularly extremely important so the bacteria that thrives in the mouth doesn’t cause major problems.

Not only that, but gum disease can affect blood glucose and make diabetes more difficult to manage and can even make it worse. Gingivitis, an early stage of gum disease, can be treated fairly easily if caught early. However, periodontitis, a more advanced form of gum disease, is more difficult to treat and can eventually lead to tooth loss.

When gum disease hits the severity of periodontitis, your gums pull away from your teeth, and create pockets where germs and bacteria love to hide. The bacteria causes the pockets to deepen and, if left untreated, the infection will destroy the bone holding your teeth in place, causing the teeth to move, become loose, or fall out.

Other oral health problems that can result from diabetes include thrush (a fungal infection of the mouth) and dry mouth. These can create even more issues like ulcers, infections, cavities, and more.

The best way to prevent oral health problems for a patient with diabetes is to control their blood glucose level, and brush, floss daily, and maintain visits to my Lewisburg dental office at least twice yearly. People with diabetes have unique oral health needs, so it’s important to let us know about your health history including any medication and changes to your diabetes. We’re here to help you maintain optimal full-body health, not just your teeth.

Serving patients in Lewisburg, Selinsgrove, Williamsport.