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Oral Hygiene at the First Thanksgiving

November 25, 2014
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Posted By: Dr. Russell D. Mann

We all know that after a big Thanksgiving meal t’s a good idea to brush and floss, but what did they do after the first Thanksgiving? What was the oral hygiene like for the pilgrims and Native Americans back then?

In 1621 the colonists of Plymouth and the Wampanoag Indians held what is now considered to be the first Thanksgiving. Rather than just a single meal, it was a festival that lasted three days. Turkey may or may not have been on the menu, but venison definitely was, as the Wampanoags brought with them five deer to serve. But when the meal was over, how did they brush their teeth?

With the invention of the toothbrush centuries away, the pilgrims had to use what they had to clean their teeth. They would use things like sticks, bones, and feathers—and we can only imagine how that worked out for them.

The Native Americans were likely to take better care of their teeth than the pilgrims. They would rub herbs on their teeth in a way we might use a toothbrush now.

Regardless of the tools they may have used, it’s safe to say that the pilgrims and Native Americans at the first Thanksgiving all suffered from halitosis, and probably tooth decay and infections as well. Although poor oral hygiene was the norm back then and for centuries to come, it still had to be unpleasant (to say the least) for everyone.

Since the invention of the modern toothbrush, we have come quite a long way when it comes to keeping our mouths clean. We now have all the tools we need to help prevent tooth decay, but rather than being thankful for these tools, we often consider them an obligation and even a nuisance. When you have to drag yourself into the bathroom after a long day to brush your teeth before you go to sleep, remember that 100 years ago, people weren’t even able to brush their teeth as you do.

So this year when you’re thinking of what you’re thankful for, don’t forget about your oral hygiene and what makes it possible. Thank your toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, mouthwash, and of course your dentist.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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