In 1863, the Civil War was slowly turning towards a victory for the Union. The Confederacy dominated the battles in the beginning, but Grant's victory in Gettysburg shifted the wind in the sails. The hard-driving general and his right-hand man, General Sherman, were storming through the Deep South.
President Abraham Lincoln was beginning to glimpse the end of a very long and dark tunnel and wanted to express gratitude for the successful year. His Secretary of State, William Seward, suggested declaring an official day of thanks for the country. November had been a time of celebrating a successful harvest, and America reflected on its pilgrim beginnings. While we celebrate Thanksgiving with adorable plays of pilgrims and Native Americans, it was William Seward that made Thanksgiving an official holiday. Abraham Lincoln marked the occasion with an official address to the American people, declaring a nationwide day of gratitude:
"The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come. . . .It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving"
At this point, you might be asking: what does this have to do with white teeth? We are getting there.
There are many ways to keep track of all the wonderful things for which we can be grateful. Write them out on paper leaves and cover your walls, start a gratitude journal, or fill a thankful jar with slips of paper covered with blessings, big and small. Living with a grateful outlook boosts positivity, calms anxiety, and can even strengthen your immune system. Being thankful isn't just for November.
While you are filling the jar and adding thankful leaves to your tree, take a moment and think about adding your mouth to that list. It works hard for you in some very unglamorous ways:
While it isn't an exciting job, when you are eating your Thanksgiving feast rather than slurping it through a straw, you can give a quiet thanks for your teeth’s role in the eating process. They break down that delicious food on Thanksgiving and every other day of the year, turning it into fuel for your body in an efficient way.
We are all hyper-aware of germs these days. Masks are great, but your body also has some defenses of its own. Saliva isn't just to help you swallow, it is chock full of antibacterial juice that fights the germs that get into your mouth. Your mouth works hard to keep you healthy, so give it a thank you.
We do this all day, every day, and without our teeth, this would be much trickier. Our tongue and teeth work together to form the shapes that create sounds. Plus, teeth create the echo chamber that makes words, music, and laughter sound as good as they do. As you are going around the table sharing gratitude highlights, just remember that your teeth help make that possible.
Feasting on Gratitude
Your mouth will be busy soon. Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, salad, and all that pie will keep your teeth moving. Don't worry, we aren't here to tell you not to enjoy the feast. Turkey has lots of protein, potatoes are packed with Vitamin C, and sweet potatoes have Vitamins C and A. Indulge and enjoy, but remember to drink plenty of water to help get the sticky stuff out from between your teeth. That will keep your mouth much happier. It's one feast day a year--dig in!
2020 has been quite a year. It might feel difficult to make a list of thanks, but when you start with the small things, like your mouth, then it is easier to realize that there really are so many things for which we can be grateful. Teeth, gums, water, air… listing the small stuff leads you to the big stuff: family, friends, health, and freedom.
As you give thanks for your teeth and smile about it, we hope that you find plenty of other things to smile about as well. We are here to help you feel even better about that mouth that does so much for you. As you gear up to put those teeth to work chewing and enjoying a delicious Thanksgiving feast, consider treating your mouth to a teeth whitening kit to brighten that thankful smile.