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Is it Mental or Dental? How our Teeth Can Affect our Health Part 2 by Raymond Silkman, DDS

cranium_teeth_150pxPart 2 – Why mouth breathing causes weak chins, elongated faces, and dark circles and bags under your eyes.

The TMJ and the Lower Jaw
When we look at the skull from the profile view we observe the temporo-mandibular joint, the TMJ. Most joints will go through normal hinge motion, and some of them like the shoulder and hip joint will have a rotational motion that is more complex. However, in these joints, the two bony members stay in contact with one another throughout the motion of the joint. The TMJ is unique in that it is designed to provide both hinging and sliding motion. In order to accomplish this compound hinge-and-sliding movement, the TMJ has a disc that slides in concert with the lower jaw or mandible. When the lower jaw is not positioned forward enough, the TM Joints do not develop very well, and the discs can get jammed behind or in front of the joint. They can even become perforated and cause some of the “clicks and pops” that can be heard when people open and close their mouths. Immediately behind the TM Joints we also have the ear canals and important vascular and neurological structures, which can become impinged upon as well.

What we call an overbite or overbite should really be called an underbite, because it is caused by the mandible, the lower jaw, that is too far back, not the maxilla that is too far forward. But when children come to the orthodontist with what the public calls an overbite, they are often treated by removing some of the teeth in the upper jaw and then with a device known as neck gear or headgear to pull the maxilla back. The thinking is that the apparatus will stunt the growth of the maxilla and allow the lower jaw to grow and catch up, or that the maxilla has grown too far forward and must be pulled back.

But the maxilla is already stunted due to poor nutrition and so you can imagine how this type of treatment may cause more compression, more jamming of the bones in the head with possible detrimental whole body effects. The correct treatment for this condition is to widen the palate with an appliance so the lower jaw position can be corrected forward and allow proper physiological form and function as our ancestors have enjoyed throughout the millennia.

More Visual Clues
When children or adults are not breathing properly they tend to develop dark patches and bags under their eyes. This is due to lack of adequate circulation as well as venous blood pooling in these areas.

Kids that are mouth breathers will always have chapped lips and typically, the line separating the inner lining of the lip and the outside lining, known as the vermilion border, will be visible. Also, mouth breathers in profile tend to have very weak chins and elongated faces. Typically, these individuals will suffer from chronic sinusitis or sinus infections, colds, respiratory problems and lung-related issues.

Typically, children with bags under their eyes have short attention spans because they do not have good circulation and oxygenation of the head and can tire easily. They are literally suffocating. Furthermore, they don’t sleep very well—they are always tossing and turning and they wake up tired. Your body recuperates during sleep and sleep is especially important for teenagers. Teenagers need to go to bed before 10:00 pm because certain brain cycles designed for recuperation of the body kick in at around that time. These cycles will be interrupted if sleep mode is delayed to after 10:30-11:00 pm. The recuperation and rebuilding necessary to cope with stressful daily activities will then be compromised. These are the tired, sleepless kids who tend to have a diet high in sugar, trans fats and grains. They may end up labeled as ADD or ADHD and treated with drugs.

Airway capacity is the biggest and most important part of the well-being of a human being. It is important to stress the fact that breathing through the mouth and breathing through the nose have extremely disparate effects on the body. We are not designed to breathe through our mouths. The body is able to live by breathing through the mouth, but it suffers greatly for doing it.

Examples of Poor Facial Development
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Narrow face, mouth breathing, and sclera showing under the eyes.
Over bite or over jet, dark areas under the eyes, and weak chin.
Narrow face, circles under eyes, nose bump, and tendency for face to sag.

Internal Structures
The structures that hang off the mandible or lower jaw include the tongue and the nasal pharyngeal areas, which eventually lead down into the lungs.

Other structures that can affect the airways further back in the throat area or the pharyngeal airway space are the tonsils and adenoids. About 85 percent of the children I see in my practice have extremely large tonsils and do you think they can breathe very well? It is not possible to breathe very well when tonsils, which are typically supposed to be almost unnoticeable, are so inflamed that they are almost touching and practically closing off the airway in the back of the throat, right where air is supposed to pass on its journey towards the lungs.

These structures also become swollen due to food allergies, especially allergies to pasteurized dairy. Every time I’ve had a kid and a mom convinced that they should stop everything pasteurized and processed and then eventually go to raw dairy products I have seen some reduction in tonsillar size, although this doesn’t happen overnight. (Interestingly, I have had two cases of children who stopped having epileptic seizures as soon as they had their extremely massive tonsils taken out. Please note that I usually do not recommend removal of organs and body parts.)

Almost invariably a narrow or under-developed maxilla can cause the effect of holding back the lower jaw or the mandible. This improper positioning of the mandible and its inherent retrusion causes a lack of physical and physiological space for the tongue and the pharyngeal tissues, which again will provide an impedance to the airways, causing breathing difficulties and lowered oxygen uptake by all of the tissues.

The most important orthodontic appliance that you all have and carry with you twenty-four hours a day is your tongue. People who breathe through their nose also normally have a tongue that postures up into the maxilla. When the tongue sits right up behind the front teeth, it is maintaining the shape of the maxilla every time you swallow. Every time the proper tongue swallow motion takes place it spreads up against maxilla, activating it and contributing to that little cranial motion, that cranial pumping that we discussed earlier. Individuals who breathe through their mouths have a lower tongue posture and the maxilla does not receive the stimulation from the tongue that it should.

When the tongue doesn’t fit inside the jaws or dental arches it retracts back into the throat and pushes on the floor of the mouth. The result is something that looks like a double chin, even in women who are very thin. When we begin palate-widening procedures, this problem disappears—without plastic surgery. And then what happens when orthodontists treat these problems by removing teeth? If he takes out eight teeth out of a total of 32 (four first molars and then later on four wisdom teeth), the patient ends up missing one-fourth of his teeth. What are the consequences of this? Can you take out 25 percent of anything that’s supposed to be whole and expect it to be okay? I consider the teeth as organs and do not recommend the removal of teeth for tooth crowding or orthodontic treatments.

And what happens when a child is given head gear or neck gear, when you put a force on a cranium to pull it back? There can be serious consequences.

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Types of headgear used to pull back the upper or lower jaw

The Final Answer: Adaptive Capacity
Our bodies have an adaptive capacity to deal with shortcomings. Those of you who have studied CPR know about the ABCs of resuscitation. The A stands for airways and what are you supposed to do when someone needs assistance? You tilt the head back to open the airway. Similarly, when the airways are chronically blocked, the body tilts the head back. But humans cannot walk around with their noses up in the air for too long. The eyes must be parallel with the horizon, so the body then leans the head forward. Forward head posture in essence is a chin lift procedure with the eyes corrected to the horizon in a vertical or standing position.

That’s where that characteristic forward head posture comes from. This chin-lift, head-tilt-forward posture helps open up the airways. As I mentioned, craniums on adults weigh 12-18 pounds. Imagine a bowling ball. If I carry the bowling ball close to my body, I can carry it without becoming tired, but if I carry the bowling ball out in front of my body, what happens? I am going to suffer from fatigue. So then, in order to balance the head tilted forward, I may extend my butt out a bit, which creates a misalignment of the hips, but helps to balance the extra forward weight of the ball. How many people do you know that have hip and lower back problems? Most of those people also have airway problems. Also, there are limbs attached to the hips–we call them legs–so when the hips go out of alignment, the knees have to adjust to this weird hip posture.

These adjustments are all very subtle. One doesn’t wake up and feel that he or she is going to walk differently. Can you imagine that all of these issues and events can start with a baby who is chronically breathing through its mouth? So airway capacity is the most important hallmark of the well-being of a human being. If you have good airway capacity, you will go through life with a strong immunity to illness.

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Breathing difficulties can lead to the tiring head tilt forward position.

Sympathetic Overload
When the bones in the head are underdeveloped or misaligned, the soft tissues are over-crowded and unable to assume their normal shapes and positions and the air way is obstructed. When, in addition, the diet is not nourishing and lacks proper fats, the nervous system also suffers.

Let me explain: as you may know, there are two types of autonomic nerves, sympathetic and parasympathetic. The parasympathetic nervous system works to calm us down and to heal. The sympathetic nervous system is the part used when one needs to get out of a dangerous situation. It operates when we are under a lot of stress, and we are not meant to be under constant physical stress. When the sympathetic nervous system is activated, it places the body and mind in an alert mode and this mode and the constant stress depletes the bodily reserves and nutrients.

Sympathetic nervous system overload also occurs when the airway is obstructed and the input or sense to the nervous system is akin to a hand or choker around the neck. What type of response do you think the nervous system will have? It’s on high alert at all times. This is why kids who are mouth breathers have a strong gag reflex, for example. For them, the mouth is the source of air as well as the source of food, and the mouth was not designed to perform both of these functions. So, kids and adults who are mouth breathers have strong gag reflexes, sometimes so strong that they can’t get near their mouths without difficulty, not even with their own toothbrushes or eating utensils. This, of course, precludes certain psychological issues that can also create a strong gag reflex but can be ruled out during an assessment. So mouth breathers tend to have amped-up sympathetic nervous systems, always on alert, and they have a hard time getting their physical or mental bodies to relax. Many have found an avenue of dealing with this issue subconsciously, namely exercise and physical exertion. This is because during physical exertion large volumes of air are inhaled, which may give the body the input it needs to make up for the lack of proper oxygenation during rest periods.

Long-Term Consequences
People who are not well oxygenated and who have poor posture often suffer from fatigue and fibromyalgia symptoms, they snore and have sleep apnea, they have sinusitis and frequent ear infections. Life becomes psychologically and physically challenging for them and they end up with long-term dependence on medications—and all of that just from the seemingly simple condition of crowded teeth.

In other words, people with poor facial development are not going to live very happily. They’re always going to be in and out of treatment, hopefully with a more holistic alternative practitioner—but you can take all the herbs in the world, you can take all the homeopathic medicines for these conditions, but the truth is, you cannot have proper function without the proper structure. If you don’t have the proper form, how do you expect proper function even with the best alternative care?

So, as you can see, airway capacity is extremely important and many times when we do the procedures that widen the palate, correct the head tilt and allow a person to breath through the nose, that person suddenly becomes happy. It is amazing to see the things that happen when we take steps to expand the palate and the upper jaw. The patients go through a literal expansion, but they also open up in many ways– they open up their hearts and their personalities and relationships change. They become more pleasant, more contented. A lot of amazing things can come about just from changing the shape of the maxilla for a human being.

Well-Formed and Hardy
My friends think I am nuts but I can stare for hours at photographs of well-formed individuals and just marvel at the beauty of proper physical form and function and the capabilities for hard work and functioning that these individuals tend to have.

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Examples of excellent facial development: Note the broad middle portion of the face, well-developed lower jar and smoothness (lack of sags or circles) under the eyes. These individual illustrate the full expression of our genetic blueprint.

Let’s ask a question: who can perform better in jobs or sports with very difficult physical requirements and conditions? Generally you will find the well-developed (that doesn’t mean large muscle mass), well-formed individuals who are capable of such physical feats and they tend to come from rural or isolated areas or from families that have consumed more traditional diets and therefore had much better development than the average city child growing up these days. Many of these individuals are people who come from other parts of the world and are involved with professional sports and or jobs we consider menial, such as doing our gardening, housework and construction work, and even raising our children—people who are able bodied and capable.

Therefore if we are looking for the magic period to help a child grow into an individual with amazing physical capabilities then we must acknowledge that the most important developmental period is preconception and the nine months in utero or in the womb—this is when the foundation is laid for living a full 120 years. The parents should prepare themselves well in advance of conception by eating a nutritionally supportive diet, based on the principles discovered by Weston Price, and continue that diet during pregnancy. If, throughout the individual’s life, such nutritional practices are continued, then the possibility to have excellent physical form and function is highly likely, with great rewards to that individual. Please take into consideration the fact that over the last 100 to 120 years in this country, many events and conditions have slowly weakened the offspring born in each successive generation. Modern medicine classifies some of the physical symptoms encountered in the younger generations as genetic; however, even though there may be genetic aberrations occurring due to toxicity of the environment, these symptoms are a reflection of the improper human development due to poor nutrition.

The people who were born in the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s tended to drink and smoke. They had teeth extracted, root canals and metal fillings, yet they are generally not the chemically sensitive individuals we see in our population today, young people in their twenties who can’t handle even a little bit of lavender scent in the room.

Sources of Energy
We must also briefly discuss other sources of input or energy besides diet needed to create proper physical form and mental function. There is a concept that views a human being as a sort of battery or capacitor. We are the sum of all that goes into us, not only our physical diet but also the input of an emotional or spiritual nature, including our connections to one another, to nature and animals, to art, to the Creator and also, most importantly, to ourselves.

A connection that more than 90 percent of individuals lack is the connection to the earth. Historically, humans have had some form of physical contact with the earth and its electro-magnetic field. We worked on the land and collected our sustenance with our feet or bodies in contact with the earth and without the interference of man-made materials and building structures. So it’s important to literally stay connected with the earth by walking barefoot outside and letting all of our senses recalibrate themselves to what our body knows as normal.

Finally, we get energy from our belief systems and from our beliefs about ourselves. When something goes wrong, do we berate ourselves or do we see our troubles as important lessons given to us because we are worthy to receive them?

Humans Recognize Proper Facial Form
While very few people have heard of the work of Weston Price these days, we haven’t lost our ability to recognize proper facial form. To make it in today’s society, you must have good facial development. You’re not going to see a general or a president with a weak chin, you’re not going to see coaches with weak chins, you’re not going to see a lot of well-to-do personalities in the media with underdeveloped faces and chins. You don’t see athletes and newscasters with narrow palates and crooked teeth.

Unfortunately the trends in cosmetic facial and body enhancement procedures make one believe that all can be bought with money and surgery, but a word of caution: avoid implantation of objects or removal of organs as they interfere with normal and natural processes of the body, mind and soul. Great research has demonstrated that cells communicate with one another via a form of light and surgery tends to disrupt these light pathways, also called meridians or chi pathways.


Dr-Silkman-photoDR. RAYMOND SILKMAN is an actively practicing biological dentist with nearly 24 years of experience. His practice is based in Brentwood, California with a focus on holistic dental care for the entire family, as well as treatments for functional orthodontics, TMJ therapies and oro-facial pain treatment. He has lectured to professional and lay groups locally, nationally and has written on the subject of dental/orthodontic/whole body wellness.

Dr Silkman’s biological or holistic approaches take into consideration the interrelationships and influences of various body structures, organs and systems within us and the underlying causes of dental issues such as decay, dental crowding, periodontal disease, etc. His approaches are designed to educate the patients, young or old in bringing about profound and palpable overall health through an understanding of the body, the influence of nutrient rich diets, emotional / spiritual well being, and the incorporation of many alternative modalities of health rather than instill fear through an outdated and unproven bacterial blame/fluoridation model so prevalent in dentistry.

This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly magazine of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Winter 2005/Spring 2006.