It’s commonly accepted that your face will look like your parent’s faces. The same goes for your teeth. So if you have crooked teeth, then it’s assumed that your parents must have given you their genes for crooked teeth. However, In this blog post, I’m going to argue that there’s is no gene for crooked teeth.

Numerous sources and research papers have shown that even a few hundred years ago, most Americans did not need their wisdom teeth removed.  If you look at Native American skulls from these times, you’ll see that they had wide jaws and perfectly straight 32 teeth, and essentially no cavities. Dr. Weston Price found the same thing in the early to mid-1900s in all 5 continents, if people ate naturally, with no Western influences. George Catlin the American painter in his book, Shut Your Mouth and Save Your Life, observed that Native Americans who had wide jaws and perfect teeth were healthier, stronger, and more resilient.

Both observed that as we start to adopt Western diets (soft/processed foods, refined sugars, canned foods, etc.), people’s teeth came in more crooked and crowded, with more narrow jaws. Bee Wilson, in her book, Consider the Fork, A History of How We Cook and Eat, cites anthropologic studies showing that only the rich in old England could afford newly invented metal cutlery. As a result, the aristocracy was found to have overbites (upper front teeth in front of the lower teeth) long before the poor peasants. The same was found in Chinese culture as well.

Yes, genes give you a blueprint for a range of possible genetic expressions, but it’s your environment while developing inside the womb, and what you’re exposed to after birth that determines how your mouth and teeth develop. This process is called epigenetics. So far, the known risk factors for crooked teeth (malocclusion) are prematurity, soft foods, bottle-feeding, thumb sucking, pacifier use, toxins, and nasal congestion. I’ve also speculated that perhaps even fluoride may have an influence as well.

Here are two examples of how your environment can be a significant factor in how crooked your teeth become. One of the residents that work with me recounts that her grandmother was born in Vietnam and immigrated to the United States at the age of 5. She was the firstborn and had 9 subsequent siblings, all born in the US.  She is the only one with straight teeth, as well as being the healthiest of all her siblings, even the youngest one. 

One of my operating room nurses grew up in St. Kitts, a small island in the Caribbean Sea.  She recounts that she and her friends made fun of rich people because they had crooked teeth.

Now it’s a given that your children will undergo braces, with many needing appliance therapy even as young as 3 or 4. Many will undergo multiple tooth extractions during braces or later as an adult, needing their wisdom teeth removed. The reason that teeth need to be removed is that the mouth is too small to hold all your teeth, and taking them out will make your mouth even smaller.

Having an overly small mouth also means that you’ll suffer from having a stuffy nose.  Narrow upper jaws lead to a high-arched hard palate. This leads to buckling of your nasal septum (the midline wall of cartilage in your nose) since it has no room to grow downward. The nasal sidewalls are more narrow, and your nostrils will tend to cave in more easily when breathing in.

You may be asking by now, what can you do? This is a challenging answer to give since we’re all so fully immersed in our modern diets and lifestyles. This is why it’s important to eat as cleanly as possible, remove exposure to environmental toxins, and breast-feed your babies for as long as possible. But no matter how many of these steps you take, you can’t magically give yourself a bigger mouth. Actually, it can be done to various degrees with dental appliances or surgery, but this is not something your doctor or dentist will likely recommend.  But here are 7 simple steps to consider to improve the health status for you and your children:

  1. Breathe much better through your nose. I’ve written extensively about the importance of optimal nasal breathing. This is one area that has the most potential for success and is essential before you begin other treatment options. See an ENT and take care of this problem is you have a stuffy nose.
  2. Empty your stomach before going to bed. Having some juices lingering in your stomach will leak up into your throat, nose, and lungs. Having even mild cases of apneas will accelerate this vicious cycle of inflammation, more obstruction, apneas, and more reflux.
  3. Eat as cleanly as possible. Choose organic foods and ingredients, fresh vegetables, and unprocessed foods.
  4. Minimize exposure to household or environmental toxins.
  5. Minimize prescription medications. Many have significant side effects and have ingredients that you would never tolerate if it was placed in your meals. 
  6. Re-engineer your life to simplify, clutter-free, and to minimize stress.
  7. Consider seeing an airway knowledgeable dentist as soon as possible for you and your child.

If you can acknowledge that modern faces are shrinking rapidly, then imagine what our faces will look like in 500 years (think alien faces with large brains but tiny faces). I don’t want to sound like Chicken Little, but it’s important to realize that this is not just a cosmetic problem. It’s a major airway problem, which leads to major sleep and health problems later on in life. There is no gene for crooked teeth. Take this issue seriously. Your life depends on it. 

The post Is There A Gene for Crooked Teeth? appeared first on Doctor Steven Y. Park, MD | New York, NY | Integrative Solutions for Obstructive Sleep Apnea, Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome, and Snoring.

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