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?
Dr. Liao: A 28 y.o. man was referred to me by a patient for teeth grinding, “homeless” bite, overweight by 30 pounds, heel pain both feet, waking up tired, medically-diagnosed sleep apnea, C-PAP intolerance, and ED. His history included braces twice for a total of 7 years, and four teeth were extracted in high school. The spaces left by the extraction were closed with retraction orthodontics. So he now has straight teeth with a miserable body. The cause: reduced oral volume from extraction and retraction orthodontics. His tongue is now a 6 foot tiger in a 3 foot cage. His sleep test shows an average of 25 arousals per hour because his body is struggling with Code Blue to get more air past the tongue in his throat. That’s why he wakes up tired, and that’s also why he is putting on wads of fat around his belly. His body is experiencing stress alarms during sleep, and stocking up on fuel to deal with siege is exactly what survival calls for.
Dr Liao: Traditional orthodontics does a lot of good when properly practiced. To avoid having a 10 foot polar bear hunting in a 6 foot igloo, however, you want expansion rather than extraction and retraction orthodontics. Typical orthodontists are well-trained in dental schools on how to line teeth up straight. I am a general dentist who champions the idea of a holistic mouth — one that is an asset rather than a liability to whole body health. This is not yet taught in dental schools. Dentists are trained to be good tooth mechanics and safe operators. But the mouth is more than teeth, as the case above illustrates. You need a mouth doctor just like you need a heart and brain doctor. The mouth is pivotal organ for overall health and natural wellness. Sleeping with the tongue partly or most in your throat is sure way to look and feel old fast. So my concerns go beyond just straight and white teeth. My concerns include:
- Alignment of jaws and teeth with cranial (skull) bones and spine
- Breathing without tongue blocking the airway
- Circulation without dental and periodontal infections
- Digestion without dental and environmental toxins
I am sure there are enlightened orthodontists who do the same for their patients. Holistic mouth care as a universally recognized health requirement is still like the New World before Columbus put it on the map, i.e. too new for most doctors who are satisfied with their professional education.
Me: Okay, I am sooooo close to hopping on a plane and bringing Micah to you right now for a consult. But, um, at 1.5 years old I’m guessing he wouldn’t be a very cooperative patient. Is there an ideal age to bring a child to someone like you?
Dr. Liao: Optimal dental-facial development has two parts: bone-to-bone orthopedic alignment, and teeth-to-teeth orthodontic alignment. Orthopedics refers to the relationship between cranial bones and jaw bones, and spine. The dental-facial skeleton has a set of rules on postural health and comfort, just like the spinal and pelvic skeleton. If the dental-facial skeleton is off balance or not symmetrical, some signs will show up. After age 12, adult teeth come through and locks in the existing orthopedic problems for life. Symptoms in head, neck, jaw sometimes do not show up until after age 20 when growth stops in milder cases, but will show up during growth years during severe cases. Mouth breathing from nasal obstruction is a critical factor for initiating dental crowding and orthodontic problems. So it is best to recognize and treat early while the bones are soft and easy to re-align:
Evaluation by parents and a physician, be it medical, naturopathic, osteopathic, chiropractic or dental physician trained in recognized head-neck misalignment. Symptoms can include spit-up regularly after feeding, irritability, incessant crying through the night without let up. Also checkup on tongue tie.
Valuation of developing baby teeth and bite by dentist. Best to bring child into dentist as a tag along when Mom or Dad is having teeth cleaned to show such visits are safe. Observe for mouth breathing, tongue tie, overbite, cavities, diet, dental hygiene, cross-bite, teeth grinding, finger sucking, frequent yawning during day, energy level, etc.
Evaluation for arch width and facial asymmetry such as one eye higher, one ear more flared, one mouth corner higher, head tilt, forward neck, weak chin, flat feet, etc.
Treatment of all orthopedic issues and allow teeth to come into jaws already in good orthopedic alignment with head and neck. Best practice is to correct mouth breathing, ensure full nasal breathing, and align head-jaws-neck orthopedics before age 10 when cranial-jaws-neck orthopedics drives the orthodontic relationship (how teeth come together). All too often, the mouth and the bite is left out of holistic care.
Me: Alrighty, Micah is seeing a cranio-sacral therapist to correct orthopedic misalignment due either to his birth or tongue tie so I think we’re right on track. But I want to do MORE! What steps can you recommend for mamas that want to be proactive in these early years?
Dr. Liao: Dr. Weston Price, author of Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, found that the maxilla, the bone that forms the mid-face from the base of the eyes to the smile line of upper teeth, is susceptible to nutritional factors. I find that the maxilla is easily stunted development by mouth breathing from allergies and stuffy nose. Our bodies are taking more and more hits from environment and processed foods that can affect dental facial development. Just compare the faces of actors and actresses in the black & white era compared to today. Gone are the broad faces smiles of Gina Davis and Julia Roberts.
One reason is that our bodies are taking more and more hits from environment and processed foods that can affect dental facial development. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) did a study (2005) that shows 10 cord blood samples across US has 297 chemicals in them, 180 of them carcinogenic, and 217 are toxic to brain and nervous systems. They are in our clothing, food packaging, and furnitures. So join EWG and the Weston A. Price Foundation to get educated and stay informed. EWG offers a lists of fruits and vegetables with highest pesticides and safe cosmetics list, while WAPF.org offers Shopping Guides and many educational materials and workshops.
What can you do for your child as a parent? Breastfeeding and good nutrition are natural and important starts. Next, observe the child for the signs and symptoms listed above, they can take corrective steps under the guidance of like-minded health and dental professionals. Osteopathic and chiropractic physicians who do cranial work are invaluable resources. Ask them for dental referrals, and ask WHY. Look for WAPF and EWG members who are nutritionally conscious and offer educational information. For example, I will be speaking to Holistic Moms’ Network next month — another great resource for your readers.
For adults like you, look up Epigenetic Orthodontics, or go to the DNA appliance system website for information and referrals. DNA is a new orthopedic appliance that can restart the dental-facial development in adults that was blocked by mouth breathing and allergies during growth years. It has helped my patients stop snoring, widen narrow jaws, resolve neck and back pain, reduce facial creases, restore energy, and uplift mood.
Me: You bet I will! Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge with us today, Dr. Liao. I learned a lot!
Do you have questiona for Dr. Liao?? Ask them in the comments for a follow-up Q&A post!
Photo credit: Braces
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