A common psychological need for people is a need to know the why. Why is the sky blue? Why do earthquakes have an effect on some areas while others remain untouched?
This need to understand not only drives science, it progresses us forward. If necessity is the mother of invention, then curiosity is its godmother. Not always present, not always needed, but there to provide when the mother can’t.
As Orthodontists, the need to know why teeth become crooked is a natural curiosity, but there’s no shortage of patients who ask the same question. Does it have more to do with genetics? Such as brown hair, hazel eyes and crooked teeth all passed along by parents? Or is it behavioral, how we eat and breathe?
The truth is there are conflicting opinions, but patterns have been present since the study began in earnest during the early twentieth century.
1. The Soft Food Theory.
The skulls of our ancestors show large, strong jaws and aligned teeth, even recent ones. The Hollywood image of the medieval peasant with a mouth full of crooked teeth is, in general, as fictitious as the lone hero wearing shades walking away from an explosion apparently immune to high decibel noise and force. Instead, our ancestors consumed harder food that promoted jaw development and strength. Over the centuries, the shift from hunter-gathering to farming led to softer processed foods that requires less effort to chew and results in wider weaker jaws – prime for overcrowding and unaligned teeth.
2. The Soft Food Theory – Nutritional Focus.
Contemporary Orthodontists have started to reject the soft food theory in terms of jaw development. Chewing on rocks doesn’t make for a strong jaw and the theory conflates that bones develop under the same circumstances muscles do. What has been kept is the idea that processed foods are hurting us. Minerals and fat soluble activators A, D, and K2 were more abundant in the past. Consumption of these foods during childhood promoted strong palate growth and healthy teeth.
3. Allergenic Development.
The rise in allergies have caused children with blocked nasal passages to lower their tongue and breathe through their mouth. Over the years this turns from necessity to unconscious habit, eventually leading to a weaker jawline where crowding can occur.
4. Soft Foods and Weening.
Early adoption of softer foods combined with bottle feeding impedes palate growth, leading to the tongue resting between the teeth as opposed to the roof of the mouth. This also includes adults still sucking their teeth when they swallow. This may not noticeable over the course of a week, but the cumulative effects over the course of years leads to crowding.
Simply realigning teeth would be like repairing a severely damaged limb without the physical therapy to help the patient regain control and full mobility. Treating the root causes along with slow, caring treatment promotes healthy midface growth, palate development, and realignment. The result is not just a beautiful smile, but a physical therapy of the mouth and jaw to promote healthy habits and smiles for years onward.