For many of us, Thanksgiving means having family and friends around the dinner table, with pets nearby ready to scoop up scraps often before they hit the floor. It also means one of the biggest food fights of the year – and no we don’t mean during the parade or sporting event on TV. But there’s good news and bad news.
First, the bad… various bacteria have already begun their own holiday feast. Your Thanksgiving meal will enable these microbes to launch one of its biggest assaults of the year on your tooth enamel. Most cookies, pies and the like contain mountains of sugar, but it’s not the sugar itself that causes tooth decay. The microbes feast on the sugars, stick on your teeth and then churn out acid that eats away at tooth enamel.
So, What’s the good news?
When any food is harvested, it becomes detached from the sources that gave it life. In other words, once you pick an apple, it begins to die immediately.
When those foods are exposed to air, microorganisms can begin their work of breaking down the food for their own uses. The presence of oxygen enhances the growth of microorganisms, such as molds and yeasts, and contributes directly to deterioration of fats, vitamins, flavors, and colors within foods through the work of enzymes.
This sounds like bad news, but is only bad when we let the process go for too long and the food rots. Many great chefs keep timetables or know exactly how long it takes for certain foods to deteriorate and when they reach the height of peak flavor and should be served. Aged beef is more flavorable and tender, but it doesn’t come from old cows.
You’re not alone in the fight, many of your holiday foods can actually be your allies. Cranberries and wine come to your rescue. The compounds inside cranberries have been shown to potentially reduce cavities by disrupting the enzymes inside these bacteria/microbes that cause cavities. Some polyphenols in red wine can inhibit the activity of these same crucial enzymes by as much as 85 percent.
Cheese cubes, mixed nuts and raw veggies also can assist in your food fight. Cheese is great for teeth because it contains strength-building calcium. Nuts contain calcium and minerals that strengthen and remineralize teeth. Chewing raw vegetables produces lots of saliva to wash away the bacteria. The fibers in celery are particularly good for cleaning between teeth.
Of course, we’re not saying simply eat more cranberry sauce and drink more red wine on Thanksgiving Day to prevent cavities. However, like any other day, brush your teeth, avoid foods filled with sugars as best you can, and don’t snack often – and if you do, brush your teeth again. Consider using a mouth rinse, get some fluoride in there – and be sure to see us regularly.