When the Indians and the Pilgrims shared the first Thanksgiving meal, who do you think suffered from the most cavities? You might be surprised to learn that the Pilgrims probably had mouths full of decay and gum disease while the Indians (aka Native Americans) had little problems with their dental health.
Neither the pilgrims nor the Indians ever did much to clean their teeth. The pilgrims might have had hog’s hair brushes to scrape off the plaque and maybe would apply some salt as an added abrasive. The Indians used twigs and leaves to clean the food off of their teeth, especially herbal leaves like tarragon and sage that worked as breath fresheners, too. So with both groups having so little in the way of a dental hygiene routine, why wouldn’t both be riddled with cavities?
If you recall, the Pilgrims had recently crossed the Atlantic Ocean on the Mayflower. On the ship, they had packed only food that wouldn’t rot, including salted dried meat, dried fruits, beans, grains, cheese, beer, and LOTS of hardtack. While that combination could be healthy in certain proportions, the pilgrims sadly ate mostly hardtack, which was like a dry biscuit made of only flour, water, and salt. On the positive side, it was probably whole grain and they did get a little extra protein from the weevils that infested it. But really, their diet wasn’t nutritionally balanced. Add to that the fact that the trip took longer than they planned, the pilgrims were probably a little starved, too.
For the Indians, they were living off the land by hunting, gathering nuts and berries, and planting small crops, like corn. They had a much better diet!
If there are any dental lessons to be learned from the pilgrims and Indians, let it be that what you eat plays a big role in the health of your teeth. When your whole body is healthy, your teeth will be stronger and resist decay longer. Also, food affects the chemistry of your saliva, which can weaken enamel if it is too acidic. So this Thanksgiving, eat a healthy balance of your meat and vegetables and be modest with your pie intake (and don’t forget to brush your teeth)!

Thanks to Susan Akers our fearless blog writer!