Ancestral Orthodontics

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One of the topics that always comes up what discussing traditional cultures and ancestral diets is orthodontics.  You’ve seen the pictures that Weston A Price made famous of the beautiful traditional faces verses the faces of those that had begun eating the “displacing foods of modern commerce.”  While there are still people who have beautiful facial structure with functional wisdom teeth and space to spare, it’s undeniable that in general, modern facial structure has changed dramatically and facial “deformities” are much more prevalent today.  In fact malocclusions are now considered the norm and most of us expect that our children will need braces.  The exact causes are somewhat debated but the fact is that our faces are growing vertically rather than horizontally.  While the overall length of the mandible hasn’t changed, the arch length differs by 14mm causing crowded front teeth and impacted molars.

Dr. Mike Mew just gave a great lecture here at the Ancestral Health Symposium in which he discussed our “modern melting faces.”  While he acknowledges the important work of Dr. Price, Dr. Mew feels that Price may have had a few things wrong and Mew believes that modern facial deformities are not so much a result of nutritional deficiencies (as Price theorized), but are instead caused by changes in muscle usage, tongue posture and swallowing patterns.
He came to this conclusion because the countries with the highest levels of vitamins A & D (the vitamins that Price felt were implicated in facial deformities when deficient) are the same countries that have the highest levels of malocclusions.  Also there are many cases where individuals have bone deformities due to vitamin deficiency but the facial bones are unaffected.

Regardless of the cause, “faces that aren’t shaped correctly, don’t work correctly.” The effects of cranial deformity are serious and have long reaching health consequences for those affected including

    • Breathing:  tongue in airway causes blocked noses, sleep apnea and snoring 
    •  Ears:  ear infections, eustachian tube issues related to facial deformity
    • Speaking:  misarticulations due to tongue space issues
    • Chewing Difficulties
    • Cosmetic Issues

Dr. Mew also discussed the fact that we have become very lazy eaters.  Not only do we not have to work very hard to secure our food (clearly he’s never been to the grocery store with two toddlers!), but we also don’t have to put much effort into chewing our food.  In fact, as a culture we seem to prefer food that “melts in our mouth.”

The good news is that there is hope for the 90% of us whose faces are melting.  Mew states, “If your face can grow wrong at a late age, you should be able to make your face grow right at a late age!” and even though he’s an orthodontist, he doesn’t think braces are the answer.  In fact he believes that they treat the symptoms, but worsen the underlying problem.  Instead he advocates the following:

    • lips together
    • teeth together 
    •  tongue on the roof of your mouth

Most importantly, Dr. Mew advised to eat good food, but eat hard food and warned that “nature will castigate those who don’t masticate!”

Eat Well, Be Well,

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