While lying in the chair at the dentist’s office, staring up at the bright lights while your dentist checks your teeth, have you ever thought about what our ancestors did before dentistry? How did they deal with shifting teeth and snoring? It must have been a painful existence, right?
Wrong, says Sandra Kahn and Paul R. Ehrlich, authors of Jaws: The Story of a Hidden Epidemic. The book, published September 2018, says our ancestors actually never had to deal with crooked or crowded teeth, at least not on the scale that we do today. And the problem isn’t just affecting the look of our teeth, it’s affecting how we breathe as well.
Shrinking: A Growing Problem
Ehrlich, an American biologist, has studied the human jaw for years and, according to his research, our jaws are shrinking. This biological change is directly associated with an increase in stressors, behavioral issues and sleep apnea, and though this isn’t something we should be panicking about, we can do our part to combat the issue. But first; what has caused our jaws to shrink?
First, according to Kahn and Ehrlich, a major problem lies in our posture. Think about it; when you’re sitting at your computer, leaning over your cell phone or even watching TV, more often than not we are in a forward-head posture, and our jaw unbalances, hinging the jaw backward. We also eat softer foods than our ancestors, which weakens the jaw. Finally, mouth breathing can be associated with that hanging jaw or overbite position; not ideal.
Keeping the Jaw in Mind—and Alignment
You can do your part to keep your jaw in alignment, encouraging a healthier jaw position, which may lead to better sleep, reduced stress and better posture. And the verdict is still out, but Kahn and Ehrlich believe maintaining the proper jaw alignment may reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and other chronic ailments.
If you are raising children, it’s important that you help create healthy habits that will stick with them and encourage an optimal jaw position. Here are a few ways in which you can help your child:
- Diet. Perhaps the most straight forward tip, creating a healthy diet for your children and not straying from hard foods can help build a strong jaw and teeth. We were once hunter-gatherers who ate tough foods; their jaw and teeth can handle it.
- Sleep. Pay close attention to your child’s sleep patterns. If they wake up frequently throughout the night, it may be time to adjust the environment in which they sleep. This may mean adding a noise machine to the bedroom or enforcing a stricter bed time.
- Oral posture. When your child isn’t eating or speaking, where does their jaw sit? If they breathe with an open mouth or have poor posture, gently encourage your child to adjust. When they have less back, neck and jaw pain later on in life, they will thank you.
But what if you’re an adult who is already experiencing the effects of a misaligned jaw? Dr. Pamela Marzban, DDS, can help your jaw find its place again, correct pain and reduce your risk for diseases.
- ControlledArch Orthodontics. As you develop, ControlledArch Orthodontics encourages proper jaw alignment, corrects TMJ and improves sleep apnea. Plus, this method works for teens as well as adults.
- Myofunctional Therapy. Just like you would experience physical therapy to help a bone recover, myofunctional therapy helps your jaw recover. With some simple exercises, you can improve speech and sleep disorders and TMJ symptoms like headaches, bruxism, and mouth breathing.
Recenter Your Health and Jaw
Something as simple as jaw misalignment can be the root of many chronic diseases and ailments down the line. However, realigning your jaw and maintaining proper oral health can be as easy as misaligning it in the first place.