One of my favourite lectures at the AHS was one I’d stumbled into by chance. I went to watch the Darwin Dentistry lecture with Kevin Boyd, which was very interesting. However, the second half of this lecture presented by Michael Mew DDS, a British Orthodontist really captured my interest (it was also great to see another Brit there!). I’d thought about dentistry with a Paleo perspective before (coincidence how eating Paleo doesn’t result in the cavities and dental issues of eating a SAD diet?), but I’d never before linked orthodontics with a Paleo lifestyle.
Mew explained how 60% of people have crooked teeth – which is clearly too significant to be put down to genetic factors, there is also no evidence to suggest the cause is genetic. The reason for crooked teeth appears to be down to our changing faces. We now have faces that Mews described as “like a waxwork model too close to the fire”: our jaws grow down and narrow leading to flatter faces, big noses & sloping foreheads. With narrow dropped jaws, we have far less room for our teeth. This results in crooked teeth – and lots of orthodontics. Studies of indigenous societies have revealed that they did not have the same issues of crooked teeth that we see, in fact the problem appears to have arisen since the industrial revolution.
Why Do Our Jaws Not Form Properly Anymore?
Breast Feeding appears to be a significant factor in this. Apparently the actual mechanism of a breast and bottle fed baby is completely different. Bottle feeding does not promote proper palate formation in the same way breast feeding does, Mew explained how “The baby pushes the nipple around its front teeth, helping create a wide palate and enough room for the front teeth. Baby bottles don't promote this growth.”
The modern diet of soft, processed foods does not enable jaw muscles to form properly, since it is rarely used to chew and bite on difficult food. This too has a detrimental effect on jaw shape.
Mouth breathing is another significant factor. When people cannot breath through their nose (perhaps due to allergies), they instead must breathe through their mouth. Over time this changes the shape of the face and misaligns the jaw – leaving less room for proper teeth alignment.
Mews explained how he can tell just by looking at the shape of someone’s face whether they have orthodontic issues. He uses “Orthotropics” to treat his patients, which encourages the jaw to grow correctly. From the before & after photos of his patients, the changes in the shape of their faces was incredible.
Mews was a fantastic speaker. Hearing such interesting ideas, for the first time, was a real highlight of the symposium. Who'd have thought orthodontics could be so interesting?
You can watch the lecture here (Mews is the second half).
I hope to see Mews back at next year’s AHS (on the main stage) to explain more on this topic. I’m also very interested in the allergy link, which was touched on in other lectures – I’d love to see a whole lecture on allergies, in a Paleo context, at the next AHS.