The toothbrush was first invented and popularized in Europe, so how did Native Americans care for their teeth before being introduced to the toothbrush?
The Native Americans were expert hunters and gatherers, and were able to survive completely off of the land. Their diet consisted mostly of corn (maize), beans, squash, fish and game. They would eat this food largely unaltered by spices that were more prominent in Europe. They also ate a lot of fresh fruit and nuts, which help to keep plaque off of teeth! Because of their fresh diet that was high in fiber, Native Americans had surprisingly well-maintained teeth and gums.
Native Americans cleaned their teeth by using chewsticks and chewing on fresh herbs to cleanse their teeth and gums. Chewsticks were twigs that had two uses: one end was frayed by a rock and used for brushing, while the other end was sharpened and used as a tooth pick. Native Americans would chew on the frayed end to clean debris from their teeth.
In addition to chewsticks, early Native Americans would also chew on pine needles to clean debris from their teeth. They also chewed fresh herbs like sage, cucacua and mint to freshen their breath.
Native Americans drank a lot of water before the Spanish arrived in North America. Water is the perfect drink for a healthy mouth because it cleans teeth of food debris, which prevents acid attacks on tooth enamel and keeps cavities at bay. Furthermore, water makes up 99% of saliva, and the mouth uses saliva to clean teeth and maintain a healthy ph balance.
Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to gather with your family and eat incredible food, and watch a lot of football. But, you can learn a mouth-health lesson from the original Native Americans: you can improve your thanksgiving meal by adding fibrous fruits and vegetables, which clean teeth as they’re consumed.
From our office to your family, have a happy and healthy Thanksgiving!