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The true scientific reasons for crowded or crooked teeth and what you can do to achieve a naturally straight smile both in baby and adult teeth.
Scientists have suggested several different theories over the decades as to what causes crooked teeth in humans.
When my Dad started medical school in the late 1940s, he was taught that racial mixing (Italians marrying Irish for example) was the cause of crooked teeth.
Malocclusions had just started to reach epidemic proportions in children at that time.
Of course, this theory of racial mixing causing crooked teeth which were incidentally presented as fact to the wide-eyed medical students of the time is completely ridiculous and has long since been disproven.
Other theories include thumb sucking and consuming soft foods which are suppositions subscribed to by many orthodontists.
The soft food theory suggests that because humans don’t exercise their jaw muscles enough that our jaws have become weak and narrowed over time.
One orthodontist once told me (while I struggled to keep a straight face) that wisdom teeth were being genetically “selected out” of the gene pool because they are no longer needed because of the different foods that humans now eat compared with ancestral societies.
Now comes a variation of the “soft food causes crooked teeth” theory which was recently described in a study published in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
This new theory states that the movement of humans from hunter-gatherers to farmers around 10,000 years ago put us on the inevitable road to the orthodontist’s chair.
To test this hypothesis, Noreen von Cramon-Taubadel, an anthropologist at the University of Kent in the UK, examined the skull and jaw shapes of ancient skeletons housed in museums that originated from Africa, Australia, Europe, and North/South America.
Six of the populations lived by farming and five were hunter-gatherers.
A significant correlation existed between how a population obtained its food and the shape of the jaw. Hunter-gatherers had narrower and more jutting lower jaws whereas those of the agriculturalists were shorter and wider.
The shape of the upper jaw and palate also varied somewhat between the farmers and hunter-gatherers.
Von Cramon-Taubadel concludes by suggesting that the transition to farming and an increase in food processing both of which led to the consumption of softer foods resulted in a shorter and weaker human jaw.
“Jaw shortening” leads to greater crowding of the teeth.
To lend support to her theory, von Cramon-Taubadel refers to preliminary studies of animals that show that those that are raised on softer more processed foods develop smaller jaws than those raised on fresh, unprocessed diets.
Katerina Harvati, an anthropologist at the University of Tubingen in Germany says that this recent paper by von Cramon-Taubadel is a “well thought out piece of research and an important contribution” to understanding how the way humans live affects their body shape.
She goes on to say, “These findings confirm long-held ideas that the dietary shift to softer foods was an important influence affecting facial and dental morphology.” (1)
The “Soft Food” Theory
Strong contradictory evidence to the soft food theory as a reason for crooked teeth is presented in Dr. Weston A. Price’s book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration.
How this convincing evidence was completely ignored as part of this supposedly “well thought out piece of research” is rather surprising and I would think, downright embarrassing for the author.
While hunter-gatherers certainly had strong jaws which allowed them to consume hard foods, the strength did not come from greater exercising of the jaw muscles! As suggested by Sally Fallon Morell, President of the Weston A. Price Foundation, such a theory makes the critical mistake of confusing muscle with bone.
A narrowed jaw and palate, for example, can be identified in babies at birth long before they have chewed anything!
Dr. Price also correctly pointed out that when the jaw and palate are narrowed, other parts of the skeleton are correspondingly narrowed as well such as the pelvic opening which causes greater difficulty in childbirth and the chest cavity which crowds the vital organs.
The Swiss farmers studied by Dr. Price subsisted on very soft foods and yet had beautifully broad palates with perfectly straight teeth.
Moreover, the South Sea Islanders photographed by Dr. Price with perfectly straight teeth consumed primarily seafood and poi, both soft foods with poi, in particular, a very soft and sticky staple carbohydrate in their diet.
The Truth About Crooked Teeth
Von Cramon-Taubadel did get one aspect of her paper correct. The rise of food processing did indeed contribute to the modern epidemic of crooked teeth, but not because such foods are softer than unprocessed foods.
Rather, processed and industrialized foods are devoid of the critical nutrients necessary to produce a broad and sturdy jaw with correspondingly straight teeth.
How to Get Naturally Straight Teeth
Dr. Price’s research compellingly argues that a lack of jaw development and crooked teeth is entirely nutritional in origin such as attempting to build a wide bridge with substandard materials. (2)
Without essential nutrients in the form of minerals and the fat-soluble activators A, D, and K2 which were abundant in primitive diets, the jaw and palate cannot form with enough strength to support a broad facial structure.
No surprise that the pregnancy diet of ancestral women was rich in all three of these palate-widening nutrients, but these nutrients in their natural, synergistic form are woefully low in prenatal diets of today. Prenatal supplements do not adequately fill the gap either as these pills are largely synthetic and not easily absorbed.
Traditional cultures ensured that a fat soluble-rich diet continued throughout a child’s early years as well. This guaranteed straight baby teeth as well as uncrowded adult teeth.
The easiest way to ensure a child gets enough is with a daily dose of high vitamin cod liver oil and a K2 supplement such as butter oil, natto extract, or emu oil. Vetted brands listed here.
Hence, the narrowing of the face and crooked teeth in the majority of modern children is the result of a nutritionally deficient diet. This is the case no matter what the hardness of weaning foods, thumb-sucking or pacifier use, or whether the baby was breastfed and for how long.
(1) Blame Your Crowded Teeth on Early Farmers, Wired
(2) The Right Price, The Weston A. Price Foundation
How I Healed My Child’s Cavity
Busting the Beta Carotene Vitamin A Myth
Toddler’s Severe Tooth Decay Halted in 5 Days
Whiten Your Teeth Without Dangerous Chemicals
Resolving Periodontal Problems with Bone Broth
Coconut Oil Stops Strep Bacteria from Damaging Tooth Enamel
Your Dentist is Holistic?
Avoiding Root Canals
Could the Cause of Your Illness Be Right Under Your Nose?
Wisdom Tooth Extractions
Braces in Colorado Springs
I had orthodontic issues and I had to wear braces for more than an year. I don’t what the actual reason behind crooked teeth is, but I faced problems due to it. I hope this kind of articles will help to prevent others get into this problem.
Breastfeeding helps palate and facial formation! The natural age of weaning for humans is between 5 and 7 years. My husband and I have crappy teeth and wore braces, etc. I nursed both my kids until the age of 6 years. No cavities and beautiful straight teeth that garner lots of comments. (They have a mild overbite, but don’t need any braces) Ages 14 and 9.
Yes, this is true, but it won’t prevent braces if diet is not sufficient in the fat soluble vitamins. I know so many kids who were breastfed until ages 3 and even 4 who needed braces. Conversely, I know kids who were not breastfed or were breastfed for only a short period of time who did not need braces but whose mothers ate an excellent diet high in fat soluble vitamins while pregnant and he children ate the same during growing years.
Thanks for enlightening me. I’ve always thought that this having crooked teeth was hereditary. In our family, only our sister has crooked teeth. Good thing it’s not. I think I should advise my sister though to regular bring her children to the dentist and avoid processed food.
Couldn’t agree more that NUTRITION is one of the most likely causes of crooked teeth. Those that think crooked teeth are a result of humans becoming a more processed/soft food based society, need to have that “light bulb” moment where they realize that a society based on PROCESSED/SOFT Foods…is also a society that is very likely to be NUTRITIONALLY deficient/void of certain key nutrients that our ancestors were not as nutritionally deficient in. With the introduction of tons of processed food, synthetic vitamins, synthetic food chemicals, synthetic dyes and poor agricultural farming practices… it should come as no surprise that our teeth (and overall health) would begin to show negative signs as a result!
I realize that this post is pretty old but I found this article interesting yet I must disagree with the last statement. I suffered from not having straight teeth. When I lost my last tooth at the age of 12, I started developing a crooked tooth. Interesting enough, my grandmother (on my mothers side) and also my great-great-grandmother (as I’ve seen from some pictures) had a similar problem and we all had it in a very similar way (just one tooth sticking out when smiling). Back then and also where I was growing up (in Poland) we had no processed foods. My parents had a garden and I was brought up with lots of healthy fruits and veggies, even the meat and dairy industries looked and lot different (mostly private farms). I also had my pacifier taken away earlier than children nowadays and thumb sucking was not allowed. My father was born right after WWII, his family often did not have enough food to put on the table yet the whole family had nice, straight teeth. I blame genes.
The mother’s nutritional state during pregnancy affects things greatly too. If she had two children too close together, for example, and didn’t have time to nurse for at least a year (to form the palate adequately) and replenish her nutritional stores, then the younger child could have crooked teeth even if she ate well and so did the child. Genes have absolutely NOTHING to do with crooked teeth.
I grew up with a very bad orthodontic problem due to having a very tiny mouth. I also developed a receding jawline and chin as I grew. I have a very narrow, high arched palate. My mother could not afford orthodontics, so I had braces as an adult, followed by surgery to widen my palate and bring my jaw forward. I had teeth removed as well. I have straight teeth now, but not a good smile, because my mouth is so tiny. My mother had a small mouth though not quite as small as mine, but had very small teeth, so her teeth were naturally straight. My father had big teeth which I seem to have any inherited, but a big mouth with enough room for them. So, I do think there is something to the genetic mixing thing. I have an otherwise large, wide face, not a thin face. I also do not have a narrow pelvis or chest, so I don’t buy the narrowing theory for the entire body.
Sarah it is possible to reverse croocked teeths without braces?
No as the palate is formed in the womb and in early childhood. Once the teeth come in crooked, expansion of the palate and/or braces are necessary to straighten them.
Close but no cigar, I would say. I’ve read extensively about tongue and lip ties recently due to the realization that I, my husband, and more importantly, my two daughters, have them to one degree or another. My current working theory based on the (internet) research I’ve done is that tied tongue leads to improper oral posture, no tongue pressing on palate to expand and widen it (the tongue is supposed to rest behind that ridge in your mouth, filling your palate, with your jaw slightly open and your lips lightly touching. Who knew?), hence narrow palates, long faces, and crooked teeth. Where the tongue ends up mostly determines the type of crookedness. Since most orthodontics don’t concentrate on the muscles involve, those treatments can often reverse. I had a palate expansion, but I wasn’t trained to adjust my tongue’s resting position, so it didn’t “stick.” Lip ties can sometimes encourage the mouth to remain open, encouraging mouth breathing and decay. Lack of proper nutrients in utero such as real folate as found in properly prepared beans and liver lead to midline defects like tongue and lip ties. Read up on oral myofunctional therapy and orthotropics. That’s been my reading material this week, and being a long-time reader of your blog, I’m sure you’ll find it all very interesting. (Oh, the ties my daughters had made breastfeeding absolutely torturous. tie in utero leads to an infant with a narrow, high palate that feeds poorly and often painfully.)
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Those who doubt this really should find a copy of Price’s book “Nutrition and Physical Degeneration”. He proved beyond doubt that dental crowding is Not genetic. It can be entirely predicted based on parental nutrition particularly maternal diet during pregnancy, regardless of the parents bone structure. Also, crowding and bone structure tend to be worse with younger children within families unless diet is improved. This is because earlier children use up much of the mother’s stores, leaving less for subsequent babies to use if the mother’s diet, or the spacing between children, is not adequate to rebuild her nutritional reserves. It is also worth mentioning that by processed foods, they mean refined flour products, vegetable oils, sugar, and canned goods, not necessarily tv dinners and hot dogs. All the people he studied were eating home cooked meals, it was the quality of the ingredients that was to blame.
That’s true because it couldn’t be a genetic thing since both of my parents have straight teeth that re white natural and my little brother who grow up in America has soft and spaced teeth that are unlike my parents and older siblings with straight white teeth. They grow up in a country where food had health benefits and rarely ate other types of food. My little brother doesn’t like eating health and is a candy lover and only eats junk foods. Those shows the difference between him and everybody else in the family who have straight white teeth.