What Happens to Your Tooth After It Gets Extracted?

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iStock

After enduring a visit to the dentist to get a tooth pulled, you might wonder—as the novocaine starts to wear off—what happens to teeth after they’re extracted?

Although some dentists tell their patients that it’s against the rules for patients to take their pulled teeth home as a memento, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), American Dental Association, and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines say otherwise. These organizations allow for dentists to return extracted teeth to their patients, if the patients request it. The only caveat is that the dental office should properly disinfect the teeth before handing them back to the patient.

If patients choose not to take their pulled teeth home with them, the teeth can go a variety of places. If dentists want to dispose of pulled teeth, they must throw them out in specially marked medical waste containers. Because pulled teeth may have tiny amounts of blood, saliva, or tissue residue on them, they are potentially infectious materials. Dental offices pay medical waste management companies to pick up the containers and incinerate the teeth along with other biomedical waste.

If the teeth have amalgam fillings, though, dentists need to send the teeth to a licensed recycling center that processes metals. Classified as hazardous waste, teeth with amalgam fillings cannot be incinerated because the heat could cause the mercury to be released into the air. (Mercury poisoning from inhaling mercury vapor is something you definitely want to avoid.) Metal recycling centers distill the mercury from the amalgam filling, and that mercury can then be used in products like laboratory thermometers, thermostats, and fluorescent light bulbs.

Besides being thrown out or recycled, extracted teeth can help educate the next generation of dentists. Dentists may donate extracted teeth to dental schools or bring the teeth with them to continuing education courses to practice dental techniques. Additionally, dental research companies use extracted teeth to discover new methods and better ways for dentists to treat teeth.

Dentists can even profit off the teeth they pull, if they sell them to scrap metal dealers. After extracting the gold from dental crowns, scrap metal companies will send a small check to the dentist for a percentage of the value of the gold. But as periodontist Lonnie S. Rattner told the Chicago Sun-Times in 1997, "Believe me, no dentist is paying his country club dues with the amount of gold he's saving over a year."

Why Do We Eat Pumpkin Pie at Thanksgiving?

gjohnstonphoto/iStock via Getty Images
gjohnstonphoto/iStock via Getty Images

While it’s possible—even probable—that pumpkins were served at the 1621 harvest festival that’s now considered the predecessor to Thanksgiving, attendees definitely didn’t dine on pumpkin pie (there was no butter or wheat flour to make crust).

The earliest known recipes for pumpkin pie actually come from 17th-century Europe. Pumpkins, like potatoes and tomatoes, were first introduced to Europe in the Columbian Exchange, but Europeans were more comfortable cooking with pumpkins because they were similar to their native gourds.

By the 18th century, however, Europeans on the whole lost interest in pumpkin pie. According to HowStuffWorks, Europeans began to prefer apple, pear, and quince pies, which they perceived as more sophisticated. But at the same time pumpkin pie was losing favor in Europe, it was gaining true staple status in America.

In 1796, Amelia Simmons published American Cookery, the first cookbook written and published in the New World colonies. Simmons included two recipes for “pompkin pudding” cooked in pastry crust. Simmons’s recipes call for “stewed and strained” pumpkin, combined with a mixture of nutmeg, allspice, and ginger (yes, it seems our pumpkin spice obsession dates back to at least the 1500s).

But how did pumpkin pie become so irrevocably tied with the Thanksgiving holiday? That has everything to do with Sarah Josepha Hale, a New Hampshire-born writer and editor who is often called the “Godmother of Thanksgiving.” In her 1827 abolitionist novel Northwood, Hale described a Thanksgiving meal complete with “fried chicken floating in gravy,” broiled ham, wheat bread, cranberry sauce, and—of course—pumpkin pie. For more than 30 years, Hale advocated for Thanksgiving to become a national holiday, writing regular editorials and sending letters to five American presidents. Thanksgiving was a symbol for unity in an increasingly divided country, she argued [PDF].

Abraham Lincoln eventually declared Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863 (to near-immediate outcry from Southerners, who viewed the holiday as an attempt to enforce Yankee values). Southern governors reluctantly complied with the presidential proclamation, but cooks in the South developed their own unique regional traditions. In the South, sweet potato pie quickly became more popular than New England’s pumpkin pie (mostly because sweet potatoes were easier to come by than pumpkins). Now, pumpkin pie reigns supreme as the most popular holiday pie across most of the United States, although the Northeast prefers apple and the South is split between apple and pecan, another Southern staple.

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What's the Difference Between Stuffing and Dressing?

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For carbohydrate lovers, nothing completes a Thanksgiving meal quite like stuffing—shovelfuls of bread, celery, mushrooms, and other ingredients that complement all of that turkey protein.

Some people don’t say stuffing, though. They say dressing. In these calamitous times, knowing how to properly refer to the giant glob of insulin-spiking bread seems necessary. So what's the difference?

Let’s dismiss one theory off the bat: Dressing and stuffing do not correlate with how the side dish is prepared. A turkey can be stuffed with dressing, and stuffing can be served in a casserole dish. Whether it’s ever seen the inside of a bird is irrelevant, and anyone who tells you otherwise is wrong and should be met with suspicion, if not outright derision.

The terms are actually separated due to regional dialects. Dressing seems to be the favored descriptor for southern states like Mississippi, Tennessee, South Carolina, and Georgia, while stuffing is preferred by Maine, New York, and other northern areas. (Some parts of Pennsylvania call it filling, which is a bit too on the nose, but to each their own.)

If stuffing stemmed from the common practice of filling a turkey with carbs, why the division? According to HuffPost, it may have been because Southerners considered the word stuffing impolite, and therefore never embraced it.

While you should experience no material difference in asking for stuffing or dressing, when visiting relatives it might be helpful to keep to their regionally-preferred word to avoid confusion. Enjoy stuffing yourselves.

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