EpigeWHAT?!?!? How Facial Structure Affects Your Child’s Health

on March 13 | in Healthy Teeth | by | with 38 Comments

Have you ever wondered if there is a holistic alternative to braces?

Do you analyze your child’s palate development like most moms scrutinize growth chart milestones? If so, you’re going to love this interview with Dr. Felix Liao, an honorary board member of the Weston A. Price Foundation and speaker at conferences hosted by the International College of Integrative Medicine, the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, Weston A. Price Foundation, and Holistic Moms’ Network, among others.

Thank you joining us today, Dr. Liao!

Me: Even though we’ve just met I want to confess something my closest friends don’t know:  I’m obsessed with Brad Pitt!! I know, I’m **just** a decade or so behind, but really it’s just his jawline that interests me. You see, all this talk from the Weston A. Price foundation about how diet leads to well-formed jawlines and straight teeth got me wondering – What did Brad’s mom eat while she was carrying him??

Do you ever study people’s facial features and guess about the nutrition they received in utero? For those of us that are new to the topic, can you explain the connection?

Dr. Liao: Yes, I do study people’s faces, especially athletic winners.

There is no known nutrition formula to predictably produce a Brad Pitt jaw line. There are only sound principles and the emerging field of epigenetics to guide us.

Epigenetics is a new field of research on the interaction between an individual’s DNA and the surrounding environment. The term literally means “on top of genes.”  It explains variations in the health and body in children of the same parents. Brad Pitts’ jaw line is the sum of genes and epigenetics, i.e. nutrition in-utero, breast feeding, childhood nutrition and environment.

Price’s primitives have straight and strong teeth not only because they grew up eating whole foods, but also because their ancestors had done so since time immemorial, with zero contamination of factory processed foods or environmental pollution. Nutrition plays a role, but so do the genes from mom, dad, grand parents, and great grand parents.

The formation of face, jaws, and teeth is governed by a particular set of genes from both parents and their family trees. It continues with maternal health and whole foods rich in folic acids, sea food, nuts, eggs, and vitamin D.

After birth, breast feeding is what develops the jaws.  That’s simply the Law of Form & Function expressing itself. Breast milk is the perfect food for babies.  By comparison, formula is factory food, and bottle feeding leads to stunted jaws, weak chin, and crowded teeth.

If adult foods is introduced prematurely, the baby will develop allergies, ear infections, tonsillitis, and mouth breathing. Mouth breathing from food or environmental allergies will retard jaw and facial development by the Law of Form & Function in reverse.

Balanced nutrition, breast feeding, absence of mouth breathing from air and food allergies bring out the highest genetic potential. Brad Pitt [probably] grew up with all the right mix of good ingredients and none of the bad ones. I’d speculate that he grew up in a outdoors-like neighborhood in a relatively unpolluted region, as had his mom. He’s a good example that great dental facial features happen under the right conditions, even in modern times.

Me: Your comment about bringing out “the highest genetic potential” got me thinking about Michael Jordan. Did you know he was breastfed until he was three? Very interesting!

I have a question, though, about when conditions are not optimal. Chemical exposure over the past several generations has now affected milk glands in some women. For this and other reasons many women have expressed to me that though their heart was set on breastfeeding they found it necessary to supplement with donated breastmilk, homemade formula or formula.

Even exclusively breastfed children are not without functional challenges these days. My son was born tongue-tied. We didn’t realize it until he was five months old and it took three months and two procedures to fully resolve it. I wonder how his limited range of motion in those early month might affect his dental development.

I’m not detouring the interview for my own selfish reasons, promise! For whatever reason – but most likely due to our increased chemical exposure – it seems more and more mothers are discovering that their babies are tongue-tied. Can you share with us some guidelines for helping our babies achieve optimal development after this issue is identified and corrected? Would breastfeeding for longer after a corrective surgery make a difference?

Dr. Liao: I must say I am not a pediatric expert.  I do not feel qualified to say how long breast feeding should last, but I am keenly interested in learning from you and your community.

The transition from breast milk to mushed adult food is critical. Eighty percent of the immune system is in the GI tract,  That’s how the body knows friend from foe, and what to take in and reject. So the milk-to-food transition is part of the training and development of the emerging immune and digestive system.

Life long allergies and medical challenges can come from immune reactions such as ear aches, diarrhea, and irritability triggered by wrong diet transition. Subsequent antibiotics to treat these reactions to wrong diet can rob the GI tract of healthy development of good bacteria. A nasty medical fate is thus sealed.  The details of the transition are best left to breast feeding experts and nutritional professionals, but I’d love to know what you find.

Regarding your son, trust that he knows how to make up lost ground once you had his tongue tie fixed. His growth trajectory and medical fate changed with that Mommypotamus move — my compliments!

Me: **Sigh of relief** Thank you, Dr. Liao! I’d ask you about methods for achieving optimal development for bottle-fed babies, but I know we’re going to get into that in just a bit. Before we do, though, I’d like to ask about mouth breathing. I’d never thought of it as an, um, medical condition, but it can really lead to poor jaw and facial development?

Dr. Liao: The mouth is the gateway into the body.  It is also a baby’s nourishment port after birth. Weaning from mom’s milk to “regular” food represents an introduction of the outside world into a kid’s inside for the first time.

“To absorb, or reject?That is the question the body must decide.  Once food is swallowed, the digestive can only react.  That’s why 80% of the immune system lies in the intestines.  This innate intelligence can tell “friend” (mom’s milk) from “foe” (salmonella or pharmaceutical residues in tap water).  A series of bad “first dates” can sensitize a kid’s intestinal tract to mark certain foods for life-long allergies (GM soy, corn, and peanuts, industrial pollutants, etc.)  Wean with care is the advice. The Weston A Price Foundation is one great resource.

Many chronically ill patients have come to see me to investigate dental causes.  These patients often exclaim “How do you know?!” when I ask them about this pattern of

  • Premature cessation of breast feeding, overly early introduction of adult foods,
  • Troublesome childhood medically: digestive distress, diarrhea, allergies, ear-nose-throat infections, which is often treated with antibiotics, which in turn wipes out the good bacteria for good digestion,
  • Fatigue and lethargy follows, “Don’t feel like playing with friends, and too tired to go to school”.
  • Stuffy nose, dry tongue, chapped lips, and mouth breathing.

Mouth breathing moves the tongue from its natural posture against the palate and the sides of upper teeth.  With nasal breathing and lip seal, the tongue can expand the upper jaw and indirectly help grow mid-face.

[Mommypotamus here. I’m adding in these videos as a visual compliment to Dr. Liao’s explanation. Please know that they use real individuals to point out problems in jaw function and facial development. Personally I cringe at this and wish they would use drawings or models, but because they were so valuable in helping me to visualize proper jaw function I am including them)

In this video a South African dentist explains why breathing through the nose (instead of the mouth) is so important.

Dr. Liao: A good face is convex in profile — without a flat upper lip, or weak chin.  A good face is balanced in front, with even eyes, ears, straight nose, and a level mouth within a  symmetrical head.  This happens only when all the cranial (skull) and jaw bones are in harmonious balance, and without mouth breathing.

Parents of young children should watch for mouth breathing with front-burner vigilance because it can:

  • Perpetuate allergies because air-borne allergens are not filtered out by the nose
  • Retard the flowering of the mid-face (between the eyes and the upper lip)
  • Reduce energy and the desire to play and thrive
  • Stunt the natural of expansion of the upper jaw by the tongue
  • Initiate or contribute to malocclusion (bad bite), teeth crowding, and teeth grinding

In the Whole Health model, teeth are simply surface markers of bony architecture under the facial features, because they are all connected.

A good face will have straight teeth aligned naturally by the basic functions of breathing, eating, swallowing, and before that breast feeding. That is the famous Law of Form and Function.  Natural health comes from good function of all body parts, which comes from good form, which in turn originates from genes and continues with nasal breathing, eating, and swallowing.

Conversely, crowded teeth and malocclusion always mean that a price is being paid somewhere: ear aches, sinus and throat infections, impaired vision, reduced hearing and learning, low motivation, and disinterest in sports and play.  Under-sized jaws from mouth breathing has life long consequences, such as snoring, sleep apnea, heart disease, chronic fatigue, depression, and susceptibility to infections.

Me: Wow, that sounds . . . . bad. I had terrible immune function as a child that lead to lethargy AND I am near-sighted. Not surprisingly, I have a narrow jaw. I’m hoping my kids facial structure will develop properly thanks to good nutrition and breastfeeding, but what if that doesn’t happen for some reason? I read on your website that a prolonged struggle in the birth canal can affect proper skull development. That describes my son’s birth pretty well. Factoring that with his tongue tie I’d say I’m pretty concerned. We’ve just begun cranio-sacral therapy to try to address these issues, but if there are lingering problems is there a way we can correct them? I’m thinking of bottle fed babies, too. Is orthodontics the solution?

Check out part 2 on orthodontics here!

Photo credit: Michael Jordan

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38 Responses to EpigeWHAT?!?!? How Facial Structure Affects Your Child’s Health

  1. Wow, that is crazy. All new info to me!

  2. Yeah, the mouth breathing thing really surprised me. I had no idea it could affect facial development and cause so many problems!

  3. So fascinating! I had chronic fatigue and persistent throat and glandular issues growing up, and also had overcrowding, which was partially fixed by jaw-expansion orthodontics (though I still feel there is work to be done). Dental issues actually run rife on both sides of my family. (Not to brag, but…) My husband has perfect, Brad-esque jaw structure, straight, white teeth, a symmetrical face AND his wisdom teeth came through perfectly. He has never had a cavity and hasn’t been to the dentist in over 10 years! Interestingly, his three siblings didn’t have the same fortune (he is the second of four) – one just had his wisdom teeth removed, one had braces, and one has a clicking jaw issue. I’ve always wondered what could’ve made all the difference in his case, especially given that he is not the eldest child.

    • Heather says:

      Great question! My husband is the second child as well and was blessed with straight teeth despite his older sis needing braces. According to Dr. Cate Shanahan, author of Deep Nutrition, “These days, being baby number one has a special disadvantage of its own because most women eat far to many carbs. This often makes their bodies relatively hormone insensitive, which means that their uterus will not perform optimally the first time around. And that performance can impact baby’s skeletal growth and symmetry. For baby number two, uterine blood vessels and hormone receptors and other infrastructure have all be laid down, and the uterus grows faster for number two. Because of this, baby number two is often more biradially symmetrical and has features indicative of optimal hormone sensitivity compared to number one.”

      • A. B. says:

        I understood the hormonal disruption was from polyunsaturated oils – at least that’s what I read in Deep Nutrition. Where do the carbs come in?

        • Heather says:

          A.B. – Dr. Cate is a proponent of low carb diets so she is more likely to place blame there. I think overconsuming carbs can definitely affect hormonal function (as can underconsuming them), but I think polyunsaturated oils are more likely the culprit. As an aside, you ask the BEST questions! (and thank you for posting a link to that video on the therapeutic state awhile back. I am working on a post inspired by it)

          • A. B. says:

            Okay – thanks for clarifying – and thanks for the compliment. I just love your posts which always inspire great questions!

      • Amazing, thanks for the info! It also makes sense that the younger two children were less fortunate, as they were conceived later, perhaps past the optimal childbearing years. My husband also happens to have the best overall health of the bunch, is the tallest and is the only one to have never been overweight. The sister who had the braces is also the one with the poorest overall health (she also has joint hyper-mobility, like me). Such an interesting topic – looking forward to tomorrow’s follow-up post!

  4. Alexis D says:

    Very interesting information Heather! And to leave us hanging until tomorrow… ;-)

    That’s shocking information about the mouth breathing though! I am a nose breather and absolutely cannot stand breathing through my mouth when I get a stuffy nose from being sick. I am curious about M though – I’ll be watching her sleep tonight to see how she breathes at night (I want to say she is a nose breather as well but not sure).

    Looking forward to the rest of the interview tomorrow!!!

  5. Sarah Nottle says:

    Wow! I was reading this thinking of my daughter! I’ve noticed the last 6 months that she always seems to be breathing through her mouth and always seems to be catching her breath. I thought we did well with her, she breastfed until 1 when she weaned herself. We didn’t introduce foods until 8 months and I made everything, we only used baby food on vacation. But I’ve noticed she almost never has a “regular” bowl movement, even though she has 3 a day, and this mouth breathing. I’ve been dancing around starting GAPS for the last few months but I think it’s time we did! Thank you!

    • Heather says:

      Sarah, as Dr. Liao explains later in the interview sometimes we can do everything right and still have less-than-ideal facial development. Genetic momentum is gained or lost over several generations so there are some things that we may not be able to turn around right away. With that said, there is SO MUCH we can do to optimize our genetic expression and our children’s!

  6. Katherine says:

    Fascinating topic! Thanks for addressing this, Mommypotamous!

  7. A. B. says:

    So, when you take your kids in to get their palate expanded, is there a special type of palate expansion, or just the regular one that all orthodontists use? Anyone had any experience with this?

  8. KatieandDave Chlad via FB says:

    This was a terrific post! I cant wait to read more. Will there be info about hoe to correct something like mouth breathing?

  9. amber says:

    Can’t wait to continue reading tomorrow!!!

  10. KatieandDave Chlad – Yep :) It’s not an “at home” fix, though. It usually requires the help of a knowledgeable dentist, chiropractor or allergy specialist depending on the reason for mouth breathing

  11. Elizabeth Hesse Sheehan Dc via FB says:

    very good info- this is a current area of interest of mine- CAtherine Shananhan’s book Deep Nutrition goes into this a bit as well. It has made me re-evaluate when I am going to try to space my kiddos!

  12. Elizabeth Hesse Sheehan Dc via FB says:

    very good info- this is a current area of interest of mine- CAtherine Shananhan’s book Deep Nutrition goes into this a bit as well. It has made me re-evaluate when I am going to try to space my kiddos!

  13. Christy Shaffer-Belisle via FB says:

    Interesting; my teenage son was and I think still is a mouth breather. He has crowded teeth, seasonal allergies, and he has a vision problem, which he went through vision therapy to correct.

  14. Christy Shaffer-Belisle via FB says:

    Interesting; my teenage son was and I think still is a mouth breather. He has crowded teeth, seasonal allergies, and he has a vision problem, which he went through vision therapy to correct.

  15. Agreed Elizabeth! Dr. Shanahan’s book Deep Nutrition is a great one on the subject (which includes a chapter on epigenetics too)!

    Anyone looking for where to go after Nourishing Traditions? Check out Deep Nutrition!

  16. Ty-Megan Gross via FB says:

    Wow. I’m glad to have read this and to see what can be done, but also feel so discouraged. My daughter has a trach (not sure if that is better or worse than mouth breathing), doesn’t breastfeed (but gets my milk), doesn’t swallow, doesn’t eat, has had formula added to my milk (for extra calories), and has had a slew of antibiotics. I ate well during my pregnancy, so hopefully that gives her at least a little help, but *sigh*.

  17. Genevieve Faulkner says:

    So interesting! I had very crowded teeth and an underdeveloped jaw which was attributed to thumb sucking. I had 2 rounds of braces and jaw surgery to alleviate headaches from poor alignment. That’s what happens when you’re raised on the SAD diet! This info is particularly interesting to me because I’ve never had an issue with mouth breathing even before braces and jaw surgery. I’m keeping a hawk eye on my 16 month old daughter who is still breastfeeding. We didn’t fully introduce solids until she was almost 11 months. No grains until after 12 months. Luckily she has some of her dad’s genes. He has room for all of his wisdom teeth in there! Thanks for your informative and well written blog. I love reading it!

  18. Nicole says:

    This is so interesting. I’ve always wondered why I breathe out of my mouth. My husband sleeps with his mouth closed and always breathes out his nose, even when he’s stuffed up! I can’t even fall asleep with my mouth closed, and it seems like I don’t get enough air when I breathe through my nose. I have to consciously decide to breathe through my nose. Hm.

  19. [...] EpigiWHAT?!?!? Guiding Your Child’s Genetic Expression Through Holistic Orthodontics Posted Mar 14 2012 by Heather in Healthy Teeth with 0 Comments Want to know how to nourish your babies and toddlers with real food? Check out Nourished Baby, the book that Jenny of Nourished Kitchen calls a "must read for anyone raising children"! Learn how to decode cravings while nursing, get the latest research on introducing solids plus tips for raising adventurous eaters. Over 30 nutrient-dense recipes included! Now available in PDF, Kindle, iBooks, and EPUB formats! Tweet Pin It Hey there! This is part two of my interview with Dr. Liao, an honorary board member of the Weston A. Price Foundation and speaker at conferences hosted by the International College of Integrative Medicine, the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, Weston A. Price Foundation, and Holistic Moms’ Network, among others. For part one click here [...]

  20. [...] EpigiWHAT?!?!? Guiding Your Child’s Genetic Expression Through Holistic Orthodontics Posted Mar 14 2012 by Heather in Healthy Teeth with 0 Comments Want to know how to nourish your babies and toddlers with real food? Check out Nourished Baby, the book that Jenny of Nourished Kitchen calls a "must read for anyone raising children"! Learn how to decode cravings while nursing, get the latest research on introducing solids plus tips for raising adventurous eaters. Over 30 nutrient-dense recipes included! Now available in PDF, Kindle, iBooks, and EPUB formats! Tweet Pin It Hey there! This is part two of my interview with Dr. Liao, an honorary board member of the Weston A. Price Foundation and speaker at conferences hosted by the International College of Integrative Medicine, the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, Weston A. Price Foundation, and Holistic Moms’ Network, among others. For part one click here [...]

  21. Hugs to you, Ty-Megan Gross. <3 <3 <3

  22. Candace Ireland via FB says:

    This is fascinating stuff! I agree that Deep Nutrition is an excellent book. I am very excited to see that this dentist is within driving distance for us! I was hoping to find a WAPF-friendly practitioner.

  23. That is so awesome, Candace Ireland!

  24. Ken Yielding says:

    Hello Heather,

    I am the head of IT Department for Dr. Singh. I help him run the Diagnostic Service for the DNA appliance System. If you or your readers have questions email me: ken@biomodelings.com

    To find a dentist/orthodontist that has been certified to work with the DNA appliance follow this link: https://dnaappliance.com/certified_providers.php

    There are no injections or pain with the DNA appliance System Therapy.

    Please check out the FAQ page on the website, there is a video all about the DNA appliance.

    https://dnaappliance.com/faq.html

    Additionally, your readers might want to read two of these peer reviewed articles that Dr. Singh wrote a while ago.

    You can find them both on this page. => https://dnaappliance.com/journal.html

    They are called:

    From 2006:
    Associations between a history of breast feeding, malocclusion and parafunctional habits in Puerto Rican children. Lopez Del Valle LM, Singh GD, Feliciano N, Machuca M Del C. PR Health Sci J. 25(1):31-34, 2006.

    From 1999:
    More extensive analysis is needed when assessing facial structure in SIDS. Mossey P, Singh GD, Smith ME.

    Have a great day,

    Ken Yielding
    IT Department
    BioModeling Solutions LLC

  25. [...] Liao and I dished about my Brad Pitt obsession, how facial structure affects your child’s health, and why sometimes orthodontics can do more harm than good. Boy-oh-boy did you have questions! Read [...]

  26. Dusty says:

    Great post! My son was 5 years old before I had his tongue tie clipped – he has very bad food & environmental allergies. My younger son is a mouth breather with under mineralized teeth & possible acid reflux who had lots of ear/sinus infections. The younger one definitely puts his tounge between his teeth & pronounces words with a ‘th’ sound & his tounge is very long – makes me think he may have it in his throat. He wakes very easily & doesn’t’ sleep as much as his older brother.

  27. Kate says:

    Very interesting! I look at old photos of my grandparents and they had the most perfect teeth and never had any issues even though they grew up during the depression. They also had amazing facial bone structure and were very attractive people. I once asked my grandmother what it was like to grow up in the depression and she told me that they were poor (sharecroppers) but she didn’t know it because they never went hungry. They grew their own veggies as well as foraged for dandelion greens and whatnot, raised hogs, chickens for eggs, and cows for dairy, as well as hunted squirrels, deer, rabbits, etc. My grandfather would always talk about the barrels of sauerkraut they would put up and the clabber they would make with the milk. How fast things have changed. Me and my brothers prolly have them to thank for our good health and brad pitt jaws lol.

  28. christa says:

    I dont get it.. I grew up on a farm drank raw milk, was breastfeed, and ate grass fed beef, venison, and chickens as a child but still had a cross bite and a narrow upper jaw. My teeth are all very straight, but my right side of my upper jaw is the problem, you would never notice my jaw problem unless I pointed it out, but has causes a lot of problems as I got older.. TMJ, which required surgery, hard to breath out of my nose, teeth breaking easily. I never got braces, because the orthodontist said I never needed them as a kid/teen. I really wish I had, because now I would need surgery to fix my jaw to widen it.
    So, I would like to know what went wrong, since I had a great diet. Both my parents have nice wide jaws, and were both raised on farms as kids…

  29. Kara says:

    Great post – thank you! I am seriously considering doing the DNA appliance.

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