A Nursery Rhyme and a National Holiday

Can you imagine maintaining a 17 year letter-writing campaign to five different presidents to secure a national holiday for an idea you held dear?  Sarah Josepha Hale, author of the nursery rhyme “Mary Had A Little Lamb,” did just that between 1846 and 1863 to secure a national Thanksgiving holiday – perhaps it helped that Ms. Hale was a writer by trade! In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln became the final president to convince, and agreed to support legislation ushering in the national holiday that year. Believe it or not, there is a lot to be thankful for when it comes to your teeth as well. Times have changed a lot since 1863 – not to mention since the days of the “first” Thanksgiving!
Here are our top three things to be thankful for when it comes to dental health:

  1. Sedation: Can you imagine trying to calm a child preparing for tooth extraction in the days before sedation? Not until Massachusetts dentist, William Morton used anesthesia in 1846, was sedation used for tooth extraction, so before that, it was largely a grin-and-bear it procedure. By the time Lincoln was president, sedation methods were on the rise, but in the case of the Pilgrims, they would not have been as fortunate – nor, as comfortable.
  2. Modern Orthodontics: Orthodontics as we know it today has been influenced tremendously by technology clearly not available in the time of Lincoln. While the French had been experimenting with straightening teeth in the 1700’s, the results and efforts to achieve the desired result would be a far cry from the approaches used today. No doubt teenagers around the world are thankful for this cosmetic advance!
  3. Safer Pain Management: In the 1800’s the pain blocker of choice was one still used today — Morphine. Back then, however, it was used in its “whole” form; what was known as Laudanum. Mixed with alcohol and administered via glass or dropper, this most potent formulation required enhanced supervision to protect against accidental overdose, and patients ran a high risk of addiction. Certainly a worry for any adult, let alone any parent.

With the country still amidst the turmoil of the civil war, Lincoln believed recognizing Thanksgiving as a national holiday could be a way to officially – and universally – give thanks, despite the separation of the country. This month, let us give thanks officially, as we do each day throughout the year, for those for whom we hold dear.


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