How the foods we feed our children could help prevent braces

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The prevalence of children with crooked teeth & underdeveloped airways is "probably one of the biggest health problems on the planet," according to Dr Steven Lin.

The functional dentist and author of The Dental Diet believes a surge in braces and orthodontic work is largely down to poor nutrition, which can impact the way our jaws develop.

It’s something our ancestors didn’t suffer with, he told me in #HealthHackers episode 16.

 Functional dentist Dr Steven Lin

Functional dentist Dr Steven Lin

"For the most part of human history, humans have grown 32 teeth into their mouth without any need for braces or wisdom tooth surgery”.

So, what's gone wrong?

One factor Steven notes is that the trend for low-fat eating in recent times has caused us to consume fewer meals containing fat soluble vitamins A, D and K2 found in foods like organ meats, egg yolks, grass-fed dairy and cheeses.

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“What these nutrients do is they actually direct calcium in the body and calcium is crucial for building bones and for strong teeth”.

Remember when we all swapped butter for sunflower spreads?  

“We know margarine is devoid of these fat soluble nutrients,” Steven said.

The low-fat movement may also have driven people to eat more simple carbohydrates which may have just pushed up rates of tooth decay.

According to Steven, our ancient ancestors ate diets rich in fat soluble vitamins and had babies with “nice round heads”, stable airways and upright head posture.

“That’s why people for millennia didn’t have wisdom teeth impaction, they didn’t need braces - because they ate the right foods”.

It’s a seemingly different story when looking at our children’s mouths and faces today.

“If you walk into a schoolyard you’ll probably see 7 out of ten kids with orthodontic work - and that’s because our jaws aren’t developing.”

Steven also highlights positive effects of breastfeeding on a newborn’s jaw development.

His website stresses it is "critical" to preventing braces, and provides further tips for breastfeeding parents here.

In my interview with him, Steven explained that a baby “uses its tongue to push a mother’s nipple up to its palate and that actually expands the palate out.

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“That physical force actually helps to grow that palate out and helps the child to create a nasal posture where it will breathe through the nose and have a nice wide face.”

Wide equals good; a nice palate (roof of the mouth) should apparently be a wide u-shape.

But what Steven sees among kids today are high v-shaped palettes, indicating the upper jaw bone is thin and cramped, resulting in a smile that’s crooked and nasal synapses that are out of shape.

Why else should you care about having a good jaw?

Aside from the effects it can have on your breathing, eating and overall health...

“Teeth are probably one of the most critical things that we judge people by,” Steven said.

“We find symmetry more attractive.

“That’s why Hollywood stars have lovely square jaws and cheekbones”.

“When we have a nice straight smile it echoes this idea of symmetry and health”

If you’re wondering what you can do to help achieve a better smile as an adult without wearing braces, listen to episode 16 with Dr Steven Lin and hear his suggestions.

You can find out more about Dr Steven Lin here.

He's also on TwitterFacebook and Instagram.

Watch #HealthHackers episode 16 with Dr Steven Lin