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Teeth at the First Thanksgiving

Posted on November 27th, 2012

What were teeth like at the first Thanksgiving? In honor of the holiday week, here at Hawkins Family Dentistry we decided to have some fun and think about what oral hygiene was like hundreds of years ago for those who attended the first Thanksgiving. Wow, has dental technology come a long way since then!

How did the Pilgrims brush their teeth?
Oral hygiene was not so great for the pilgrims. Toothbrushes and toothpaste weren’t really around in England or America, and wouldn’t be for another couple hundred years.

People generally used whatever they could find to get plaque off their teeth, which might be bones, feathers or sticks. Some historians believe they may have even used salt to remove the filmy grime from their teeth.

Dentistry had just begun to develop in England, but the pilgrims were actually living a lot rougher than the average English citizen. They had just spent months on a boat with limited supplies and were now on a new continent where they knew no one and nothing, and had to make do with what they could find.

How did the Native Americans brush their teeth?
The Native Americans probably had better dental habits than the pilgrims, if only because they were used to their surroundings and could find what they needed.

The tribes in the area used a variety of herbs to clean their teeth, such as a handful of sage rubbed in the mouth like a toothbrush. Some tribes actually used a goop made from the cucacua plant that resembled modern-day toothpaste.

Happy Thanksgiving!
So after sharing a big feast together, the pilgrims and Native Americans probably sat back, their bellies full, and picked their teeth with a small stick or the point of their knife. You might have relatives that do the same thing this Thursday, although they might be on a big, comfy couch watching the football game. Things haven’t really changed that much have they?

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Written by Dr Alex Hawkins

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