I first heard about the connection between TEETH and GUTHEALTH when I was researching the GAPS diet, and read a great deal about the most fantastic dentist who ever existed: Weston A. Price. Absolute light years ahead of his time, he connected a healthy diet with proper facial structure by studying indigenous communities around the world in the early 1900s, and comparing their superior teeth health with the overcrowding of the British palate. When comparing indigenous cultures who will living traditionally, to those who had been moved to reservations, or onto a western diet, the comparison was profound (see image below). He deduced that the traditional diet, high in meat and vegetables, including things that required a lot more chewing to digest, contributed to better teeth and jaw development. The Western diet was in its early stages of descent, with efforts such as the demonisation of the wisdom of mothers, through terms like "old wives tales", as well as the introduction of highly processed foods and fast food restaurants.
I would highly recommend that you look into the findings of Weston A Price, and follow along with the WAP Foundation: they are magnificent. We in fact moved onto a WAPF way of eating (really well described in the Nourishing Traditions book by Sally Fallon), after we had healed our bodies on the GAPS diet. It is an absolutely joyful way to eat, and I highly recommend it. I am not going to go into too much detail about that, because this post will never end if I do! What I am hoping to share with you today is what I have discovered about the importance of teeth, the tongue, and the facial structure when it comes to digesting food properly.
My children have been through the process of functional orthodontics. We headed on this journey after my third child was born with a tongue and lip tie so severe that she couldn't breastfeed. We went to the best clinic in Brisbane, Enhance Dentistry, to have her tongue and lip tie adjusted with a laser, and within seconds of coming out of the operation, she was draining a boob, and we never looked back. She breast-fed for nearly 2 years, by far my longest and most successful effort. It was an incredible experience, and there began the journey of resolving my older two's overcrowded teeth.
My son in particular had under-used muscles from all his lack of eating food (see my previous writings on this subject HERE ) and a tongue tie that caused him to breathe through this mouth. His tongue was restricted to the bottom jaw rather than pressing up on his upper palate. His mouth always hung open and this caused him not to force his breath to pass through his nasal passage, where bacteria is swiftly dealt with by the natural defensive structures in the nose. As a result he would pick up coughs and colds, which would then turn into asthma.
Through Enhance Dentistry, we started him on a myobrace, and exercises to force his tongue to strengthen. Then they inserted an expander plate under his very high upper palate, which we gradually expanded, allowing the palate to widen and flatten, and his teeth to naturally slot into place rather than overcrowding.
We then paused Danny's treatment to allow him to grow, and in this time, moved up the coast. As he grew, his teeth began to overcrowd again (which was expected, he had lots of musculature issues).
We found a myofacial orthotropic specialist on the Sunshine Coast (Eric Davis Dental). This dentist was far more "gung-ho" about the whole process. His advice was: ignore the tongue tie unless it is severe, crack on with expanding the upper jaw to make room, the tongue will learn where it needs to go. Over a much quicker period, you will have a wider jaw, and a better functioning nasal system for breathing and eating. He over expands the jaw at first, giving the kids a fairly unattractive overbite, which then allows room for the expansion of the bottom jaw. Once everything is wide, the plates come out and everything settles perfectly into place. Beautiful straight teeth with nothing pulled out, and dramatically improved digestion as well!
In retrospect, I have thoroughly enjoyed the second, faster experience. The kids have straight teeth within a year, no braces required, and we are complimenting the process with the Wim Hof breathing method to fully open the nasal passages, and cranes-sacchral Chiropractic to help the body adjust. The process cost us about $3500 for the easiest child, who just had general overcrowding, and $5000 for Danny who was always going to need all the extra help (3 plates) to improve his jaw and teeth, after his rough start to life, where he could not eat food until he was 5 years old. It is between a third and a half the cost of traditional orthodontics. We now see the dentist once every 6 months as the kids grow. There is a chance that Danny will need one more round to pull his eye teeth into place, but not necessarily. We'll see how he develops.
Once the kids were sorted, I started to think about my jaw and teeth. I would talk to the dentist about the jaw pain I have suffered for 25 years while he was treating the kids, and he got me thinking about all of it. When I was 12 years old, my mouth was severely overcrowded, with a very high palate, like a cathedral. The only option in the 90s was to pull out EIGHT teeth (including wisdoms) to make more room, and to use painful braces and headgears to wrangle the remaining teeth into a straight line. The palate remained small and high, and so what ended up happening, was the upper jaw was "pulled back", restricting the lower unattached jaw to move back towards the neck and down. My entire face changed. My jaw and chin disappeared, and my smile back very "gummy". Much worse though, was the restrictive pain. My jaw clicks, because it is not actually properly lined up with the top socket, and all the muscles around my head and jaw are as tight as can be, causing headaches and jaw pain. I started snoring in recent years too. Many people suffering from Sleep Apnea are really suffering from a jaw that is compressing the airways by being pulled back.
Additionally, when the tongue is unable to rest up against the top palate, the salivary glands are unable to fully fire. Saliva is the first stage of digestion, and under-utilised salivation causes digestive issues, including a build up of the wrong bacteria in the wrong GI tracts which can lead to intense bloating and SIBO.
We started off slowly: the dentist made a night time splitter for me to wear, which allowed my lower jaw to relax and come forward, like a jutting lower jaw, while I slept. This eased the muscular pain at night, and stopped the snoring, but the pain would eventually return during the day.
So once my kids dental issues were sorted, I decided it was my turn. My main concern was this: If my jaw was expanded, then unsightly gaps would form, since I had 8 teeth pulled as a kid. We talked it through: there is an option that you allow the gaps to open up, and then have operations to insert ceramic teeth to replace the ones you lost. You end up with a full jaw of teeth, and everything you lost is regained. I was personally not interested in the cost or effort to go all the way with this. So we decided to get the expander plate under my upper palate, and to gently and very slowly expand my palate enough to relieve the pressure off my jaw, without creating unsightly gaps. I am lucky in that my teeth are nice and big, chunky things, and were slightly overlapped by the original orthodontics to straighten them. So I have room to expand, relieve the pressure, and enjoy the improvements that a myofacial adjustment will bring.
I have had my plate in for nearly 2 weeks now, and you can already see a dramatic improvement as my lower jaw starts to follow the plate forwards. My molars are encouraged to close on the plate, which makes me feel like I have an underbite, but the photo will show you how the facial line is changing, I have been very self conscious about my non-existent jaw, and I cannot believe that all along there was a solution to this! I feel like I am getting a natural face lift, ha ha!
FULL DISCLOSURE: This is not all that easy. The plate has NOT been comfortable. It's not exactly painful, but like a distracting ache. I am assured this will pass. I am still getting used to eating and talking, as it becomes less intrusive, but every time I expand it ever so slightly (every 3 days), it creates discomfort in my cranium. I am not a growing child, so everything is very set in its ways, and this part is definitely harder for adults than kids. I am employing a wonderful crane-saccral chiropractor to help me by adjusting my scull plates and jaw, and working on the vagus nerve at the same time. I also regularly stretch my facial muscles and jaw muscles to help my to relieve the tension that can build up as the changes take effect. I look ridiculous, but it is worth it for the relief! If your family suffers from small jaws, overcrowding, tongue tie, as well as digestive issues, I would HIGHLY recommend that you look into the following topics, and find a local practitioner to have a chat with: FUNCTIONAL ORTHODONTICS MYOFACIAL DENTISTRY FACIAL ORTHOTROPICS BIOLOGICAL DENTISTRY MYOBRACE
It has been one of those "red pill" moments for our family. We have been led deeper into understanding how every part of the body is designed, how easily it is affected by the wrong food, ie NOT God Food, and how to resolve it without breaking the bank OR the body.
Next week, I am going to be talking all about the FEET!! Teeth and Feet, and introspective... ha ha ha