Who Brushed Better: Pilgrims or Native Americans?

This week, all across America, families, and friends will celebrate Thanksgiving. People will reflect on their blessings, spend time with family, eat delicious food, watch football and brush their teeth! Okay, so maybe brushing your teeth doesn’t immediately come to mind when you think of Thanksgiving traditions, but what else would you expect from your Anderson Pediatric Dentist?

Besides, maybe if the Pilgrims had been more concerned about their oral healthcare on their voyage to the Americas, they wouldn’t have arrived with so many cavities! While the Pilgrims may have been brave explorers, their oral hygiene probably wasn’t up to par.

Life on the ship came with many hardships. Food wasn’t readily available, nor was it able to be refrigerated or microwaved. The Pilgrim’s journey lasted 68 days, meaning that the food on the ship had to be preserved and able to last for the duration of the journey. Their diets consisted of primarily salted dried meat, dried fruit, and dried biscuits and crackers - all things that stick to your teeth and feed cavity-causing bacteria. Unlike people today, the sailors on the Mayflower didn’t have the luxury of dental sealants to help prevent cavities!

In addition to limited food choices, clean water was not readily available, leaving beer and wine as the primary beverages of choice. Acidic wine not only stains your teeth but over time, it can eat away at the enamel.

Of course, none of this would have mattered too much, if they were brushing and flossing each day. However, it’s most likely that most of the passengers on the Mayflower would not have had a standard toothbrush. At the time of the Mayflower’s voyage, toothbrushes were not yet readily available to the masses. They were usually made with bone handles and boar’s hair bristles and generally owned by the wealthier members of society. Most of the passengers on the Mayflower would not have owned a toothbrush. 

So, aside from the storms, they encountered on the ocean, the living conditions and lack of oral hygiene produced a perfect storm for dental decay and caries!

Perhaps the Native Americans taught the Pilgrims about more than agriculture and farming. In contrast to the Pilgrims, the Indians had a much healthier and mouth-friendly diet, consisting primarily of fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, and meats.

Native Americans also cleaned their teeth using chew sticks made with twigs that were frayed on one end for brushing and sharpened on the other end for use as a toothpick. Native Americans chewed fresh herbs to clean and freshen their mouths, as well as pine needles to clean debris from their teeth.

It appears that the Native Americans actually had pretty good oral health! This Thanksgiving, be thankful for your teeth. Show your mouth some appreciation by eating lots of fresh vegetables, fruits, and nuts. Be sure to brush twice a day and floss, too!

Anderson Pediatric Dentistry wishes you and your family a very Happy Thanksgiving. We are thankful for our wonderful patients and the opportunity we have to educate and impact families in Anderson, SC and the Upstate area. If you are looking for a dental home for your child, we welcome you! Give us a call at 864-760-8440 and let us give you and your child Something to Smile About!

Check out out website for more helpful resources: www.andersonpediatricdentistry.com

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