The History of Thanksgiving

The fabled first Thanksgiving feast in New England, the one that brought together the Pilgrims and members of a Native American tribe (the Wampanoag), happened almost 400 years ago. But Thanksgiving didn’t become an official American holiday until over 200 years later.

When the Pilgrims came to the New World, it was difficult for them to survive. They didn’t have the agricultural or hunting knowledge they needed to prosper in their new home, and the harsh winter of 1620 killed off about half of the Pilgrim population. The Native Americans assisted the survivors by sharing their knowledge of the land. After a successful harvest the following year, the Pilgrims held a three-day feast in November with a menu that likely included goose, codfish, and venison (but no turkey). Although the event was important enough to make it into the historical record, it was not repeated the following year.

In truth, holidays of thanksgiving were not that unusual at that time in history. The European-born populations of the New World often declared thanksgiving days to honor military victories or to commemorate other instances of good fortune. For example, George Washington issued a Thanksgiving Proclamation in 1789 a few years after the Revolutionary War had ended. These thanksgiving days were often about fasting and prayer, not feasting.

The evolution of various thanksgiving days into the holiday of Thanksgiving is mostly due to one singular and single-minded woman named Sarah Josepha Hale. Born in 1788, Hale, who is also known as the writer of the nursery rhyme “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” read about the Pilgrims’ Thanksgiving and celebrated an annual thanksgiving holiday during her New Hampshire childhood. Indeed, the tradition was being observed in pockets of the country, but she thought America should adopt this tradition as a national holiday. She loved how it brought families and communities together under a spirit of gratitude, and she also felt would unite a nation that was growing divided between North and South. She wrote articles about Thanksgiving constantly for publications, created recipes and menus (including roasted turkey), and lobbied politicians about it for decades.

She finally succeeded in 1863, when Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday. He likewise hoped the holiday would help unite a divided nation. Since then, the holiday has been ensconced in American tradition.

It kept evolving, however. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade began in the roaring 1920s when the economy was flush. It was a small parade in terms of participants, but it winded for six miles throughout Manhattan and gathered crowds as it approached Macy’s flagship store. The parade grew bigger every year, and when TV started to broadcast the parades many decades later, the big floating balloons took prominence because they came across well on the small screen.

The tradition of football games on Thanksgiving also began in the 1920s. When times got bad in the Depression of the 1930s, Franklin Delano Roosevelt moved Thanksgiving up a week to extend the Christmas shopping season to support retailers. He wanted to stimulate consumer spending. Roosevelt was criticized for tinkering with tradition, and not everyone wanted to celebrate what they derided as “Franksgiving.” It was eventually moved back to its standard place as the fourth Thursday in November.

The tradition of the president pardoning a turkey began in 1989 with George H. W. Bush. While Thanksgiving Day used to be a day when just about all commerce stopped, more people seem to want to shop on Thanksgiving, and more stores are opening for holiday crowds. Meanwhile, other stores insist on remaining closed and make a point that their employees deserve a day off. It just goes to show that the holiday is always in flux and always evolving.

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Wisdom Teeth and Braces Don’t Mix

The third molars at the very back of our jaws still remain a part of our dental makeup. These molars, more commonly known as wisdom teeth, are the last teeth to push through, or “erupt,” from underneath the gum line.

The Problems With Wisdom Teeth
While not everyone has these teeth, those that do potentially face an array of problems. First and foremost, wisdom teeth typically come into a jaw line that is already developed, and in many cases, the jaw doesn’t have enough room for the wisdom teeth without pushing other teeth aside. Eventually, the pressure applied to the other teeth can crowd the entire bite-line and make teeth crooked.

In other cases, the wisdom teeth can’t erupt through the gum because all the other teeth block them. They might even push through sideways underneath the gum directly into the roots of adjacent teeth. In addition to causing teeth misalignment, these “impacted” wisdom teeth can cause a great deal of discomfort and even become infected. In these cases, the teeth need to be surgically removed.

When Wisdom Teeth Conflict With Braces
We typically encourage patients to get treatment in their teen years. This window of opportunity comes after the adult teeth have come in but while faces and jaws are still developing and are therefore easier to shape. Because the effect of wisdom teeth is uncertain, we don’t recommend waiting several years to see what happens with them. But if wisdom teeth do develop after treatment, we are going to become concerned about the possibility that these teeth will interfere with the corrected bite. Sometimes wisdom teeth grow in without any problems, but in other cases, we recommend their removal. After going through the expense and effort of getting braces, the last thing someone needs is to have all that work literally pushed aside.
Sign up for Surgery
If wisdom teeth do appear on the scene and pose a problem, in most cases removal is not that big of a deal but it does require surgery. The procedure is typically performed in the office of a dentist or oral surgeon. You’ll be given local anesthetic to numb your mouth, and sometimes patients are given general anesthesia if many wisdom teeth are removed at once. After surgery there will be some swelling and pain, but recovery normally takes a few days. The surgery is far better than the alternative of crooked teeth and ruined dental work or, even worse, infection and intense pain.

How Tooth Decay Hurts Our Economy

Have you ever had a toothache that hurts so bad that you had to miss school or work to visit to the dentist? Maybe so or maybe not, but many Americans have. When you take a bird’s-eye view and look at all the people together with dental problems, you’ll find that dental issues aren’t just about one person’s discomfort. It’s a problem that affects all of society in terms of lost hours and productivity.

Dental problems are not uncommon. In fact for children, tooth decay is considered one of the most prevalent chronic diseases. It is found in more than 25% of children aged 2-5 years and in half of kids between 12 and 15. As for adults, 92% of those aged 20-64 have had decay in their permanent teeth, according to government statistics. While most health issues disproportionately affect those with lower incomes and levels of education, interestingly Americans with higher levels of income and education have had more decay. Meanwhile, untreated decay is found more readily in populations with lower education and income.

The effects of tooth decay ripples across society. Children are estimated to miss a total of 51 million hours per year because of oral health problems. These painful problems can lead to issues with eating and talking, and more severe consequences can include infections, malnourishment, and surgeries. Oral health issues also correlate to bad grades and social difficulties.

As for adults, American workers lose 164 million hours of work because of dental issues and visits to dental providers (although some of those visits may be preventative). Like with children, adult oral health problems can lead to unhealthy eating habits and poor nutrition. Medical researchers have also found links between dental (periodontal) disease and heart disease, lung disease, stroke and diabetes. Dental disease can even affect national security. It was found that 52% of new recruits had urgent dental issues that would prevent overseas deployment.

In Canada, studies revealed similar findings. It is believed that workers lost over 40 million hours each year because of dental problems and treatment, with people experiencing oral pain missing more work. In all, productivity losses amounted to some $1 billion.

The good news about dental disease, however, is that much of it is preventable. With good dental care habits and regular visits to dentists, orthodontists and other specialists as needed, as a society we can start reclaiming lost hours and productivity lost to dental disease.

Ways to Make Flossing Easier While Wearing Braces

If you wear braces, it is even more important that you floss regularly in order to keep your teeth and gums healthy. Because of the hardware in your mouth, particles of food will find more spaces on your teeth and in between them to stick around. If these particles of food are not regularly cleaned away, your chances of having problems with tooth decay go way up.

At the same time, your braces provide additional challenges when it comes to flossing correctly, because your teeth are harder to access. Fortunately, there are tricks and devices that can make the task easier.

Use Waxed Floss

You will likely find it easier to slide waxed floss between your teeth without it catching on the metal pieces of your braces. The floss can be threaded over and around the wires of your braces and pulled through to fit in between each of your teeth.

Purchase a Floss Threader

A floss threader can make it even easier to get in between your teeth. Simply thread a piece of floss though the eye of the threader and place the threader underneath the wire of your braces. Once you have done this, you can floss like you normally would.

Look Into Superfloss

Superfloss has a stiffened end that makes threading the floss underneath the wires easier.

Try a Pick

A pick is a simple device that is made up of a thin control arm and a small piece of floss. The pick is designed to eliminate the task of having to thread floss around the brace wiring using just your hands. These devices are designed to be highly durable and can even clean between back teeth effectively.

Find a Proxy Brush

The working part of a proxy brush flares out in a cone of bristles. It might remind you of a brush you use at the sink to clean glasses, but it is of course much smaller and the bristles are softer. The way the bristles fold when you stick them between your teeth make proxy brushes well-suited for getting around orthodontic wires.

Invest in a Water Jet

If you want even more cleaning power, a water jet can do the trick. This device usually comes with a small tank that you fill with water. You can then use the handheld attachment to clean around your braces and teeth by pushing a button that shoots out a water stream. It is best to hold the attachment at a 90 degree angle toward your gum line so that the water can effectively get rid of any trapped food and built-up plaque.

Even though it is more difficult to floss while wearing braces, trying these methods and devices can make the process more manageable. Keeping your teeth clean will pay off when you’re able to show off a healthy smile when it is time to remove your braces.

Retaining a Beautiful Smile

All orthodontic patients look forward to the day their braces come off, but even once that day arrives, the work is not quite complete. The final phase then begins: the wearing of the retainer.

Retainers may seem like an afterthought after the heavy lifting of brackets and wires has been done, but using retainers is actually an important step that should be diligently carried out. Neglecting to wear a retainer properly can undo a lot of the work done by braces.

Retainers are removable trays custom-made to fit each patient and meant to be worn for a set period of time after braces are removed. They are normally made of plastic and single wire that goes around the teeth to keep them from shifting. There are also permanent retainers that are affixed to the back of the teeth and can only be installed and removed by a professional.

The purpose of the retainer is to allow the teeth to settle into their new positions. Wearing the retainer holds the teeth in place until the new bone has grown in and the gums have adjusted.

Orthodontists typically recommend a retainer be worn for at least 12 months. In the beginning of this period, it is recommended to wear a retainer at least 12 hours a day, sometimes almost continuously (except when eating) depending on the severity of the problem prior to treatment. The initial phase of using a retainer normally lasts three to six months, after which most patients can cut back to wearing one at nighttime only.

After a year of wearing the retainer, people often stop using them, but in reality, it can be a good idea to wear one three to five times a week for the rest of one’s life. That may be surprising to hear, but remember teeth shift as people age. The occasional use of a retainer can help prevent shifting and maintain your smile.

To clean your retainer, baking soda works well. Make a paste of baking soda and water (distilled or filtered is best), and brush your retainer with your toothbrush. Any time your retainer is not in your mouth, it should be soaking in distilled water. Never allow your retainer to get dried out.

Always keep your retainer in its case when it’s not in your mouth. Do not wrap the retainer in a napkin when you are eating. At our orthodontic office, we’re always molding new retainers that were accidently thrown in the trash because they were wrapped in a napkin, and they’re not cheap to replace.

And remember, it’s also expensive to redo orthodontic treatment that failed to settle properly because patients didn’t wear retainers as instructed. Keep in mind that retainers are not an afterthought. They’re essential.