Native Americans, Pilgrims, & Oral Care | Advance Orthodontics Blog

How Did Native Americans & Pilgrims Take Care of Their Teeth?

As Thanksgiving nears, so too does the opportunity for biscuits, pies, and ciders. While we take the time to give thanks for family, friends, and stuffing, we should also give thanks to the Native Americans who helped the Pilgrims improve their oral hygiene. Of course, we should also give thanks for modern dental advancements and dental education. After all, without our teeth, we could not enjoy all of the wonderful foods we share with family and friends on Thanksgiving Day.

When the Pilgrims set sail for the Americas, they brought with them poor oral hygiene habits. When traveling to the Americas, pilgrims survived on dried meats, dried fruits, beer, and old-fashioned biscuits, (probably not as tasty as they sound). The pilgrims did not pay very close attention to the condition of their teeth, nor did they pay very close attention to the way that their diet negatively affected the condition of their teeth.

On the other hand, the Native Americans had better diets and exemplary techniques for cleaning their teeth. Most Native Americans survived on crops like corn, gathering nuts and berries, and also hunting for food. The opportunity for fresh organic food undoubtedly contributed to better oral hygiene than the pilgrims had. Furthermore, Native Americans were amazingly conscious of the need to proactively clean their teeth to keep them healthy. For instance, Native Americans developed their version of toothpaste. They used herbs like Tarragon and the Cucacua plant to create a paste similar to our modern day toothpaste. Toothbrushes did not get introduced to the United States until the year 1885, but Native Americans used pine needles and even coarse animal hair tied around sticks and twigs to create a tool similar to the toothbrush.

It’s a fun thought to consider what the Native Americans and Pilgrims of the early Americas would have thought about mint or bubblegum flavored toothpaste, spinning toothbrushes, and teeth whitening mouthwash. While we enjoy our pumpkin pie this holiday, we should remember the technologies that the Native Americans introduced to the pilgrims, which undoubtedly contributed to cleaner teeth and a better quality of life. We should also give thanks to our dentists and dental hygienists of today because we no longer have to use pine needles and sticks to clean our teeth, and we can enjoy our pumpkin pie and cider guilt-free. Well, we can enjoy those things guilt free as they relate to our teeth at least.

Advance Orthodontics wishes you a Happy Thanksgiving!