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Is it Mental or Dental? How our Teeth Can Affect our Health Part 1 by Raymond Silkman, DDS

Part One —Introduction

cranium_teeth_150pxThe widely held model of orthodontics, which considers developmental problems in the jaws and head to be genetic in origin, never made sense to me. Since they are wedded to the genetic model, orthodontists dealing with crowded teeth end up treating the condition with tooth extraction in a majority of the cases.

Even though I did not resort to pulling teeth in my practice, and I was using appliances to widen the jaws and getting the craniums to look as they should, I still could not come up with the answer as to why my patients looked the way they did. I couldn’t believe that the Creator had given them a terrible blueprint—it just did not make sense.

In four years of college education, four years of dental school education and almost three years of post-graduate orthodontic training, students never hear a mention of Dr. Price, so they never learn the true reasons for these malformations. I have had the opportunity to work with a lot of very knowledgeable doctors in various fields of allopathic and alternative healthcare who still do not know about Dr. Price and his critical findings.

These knowledgeable doctors have not stared in awe at the beautiful facial development that Price captured in the photographs he took of primitive peoples throughout the globe and in so doing was able to answer this most important question: What do humans look like in health? And how have humans been able to carry on throughout history and populate such varied geographical and physical environments on the earth without our modern machines and tools?

The answer that Dr. Price was able to illuminate came through his photographs of beautiful, healthy human beings with magnificent physical form and mental development, living in harmony with their environments.

What Is Happening?
It has been well documented and Nobel prizes have been awarded to researchers that have established the relationship between proper form and development and proper physical functioning of the body. The changes in facial structure that we observe in our children today is an extremely serious matter. I would like to explore the consequences of what is happening to human physical form.

Let’s evaluate what happens to our children or adults who have faces that are narrow and long, who have

lower jaws that are not developed properly, or who have a profile view showing a very weak chin. What happens when we see jaws so narrow and small that the teeth are crowded and overlapping. What happens when the cranium is underdeveloped in various dimensions and the eyes are not level with one another?

What is the physical health legacy of these individuals going to be? What happens when we see children and adults with forward head posture–necks that are holding the head in a forward position?

There’s an old saying, that someone “has his head on his shoulders.” The translation: well-grounded minds require well-grounded and well-supported physical forms and bodies. Unfortunately today a lot of people don’t have their heads on their shoulders–their heads are positioned in front of the shoulders.

Since a normal adult cranium weights between 12 to 18 pounds, the musculo-skeletal strain in the neck or cervical region to support a forward head posture can cause a cascade of events leading right down to the feet. The forward head posture in most individuals creates improper spinal alignment and lack of proper curvature to the spine at critical areas.

There is also an alarming trend in hip and knee replacement surgeries and many individuals have improper or mostly flat arches in the feet necessitating orthotics in their shoes or, even worse, corrective surgeries.

What happens to people when they don’t have their heads on their shoulders? What is causing this effect and why does the body support this apparently futile posture? We will answer that question.

The Cranium or Skull
Let’s discuss the significance of the skeletal structures in the head. The human cranium is made up of roughly 22 cranial bones not including the ones responsible for sound transmission. One of the key bony structures in the cranium is the maxilla, or the upper jaw. The cranium also houses the extremely important glands of the endocrine system. Two of these glands, the pituitary and the hypothalamus, are housed in another very important bony structure known as the sphenoid bone residing directly and in close contact with the maxilla.

The entire brain, and all of the structures or glands housed in the cranial cavity as well as the spinal cord and all of the peripheral and accessory nerves in the entire body are covered by a continuous-membranous sheath called the dural membrane. In dissections, it has been demonstrated and documented that pressure or force on the dural membrane in the cranial cavity or at the brain level will create pulsation or an opposite force at the end of the spinal cord, and vice versa.

If the cranium is not developed properly, the dural membrane can become twisted and torqued, thus possibly creating nerve conduction issues, hormonal imbalances or pain. You can imagine the effects that this can have on the nervous system and on an individual’s overall health and well being.

Interestingly, medical research has demonstrated the presence of constant and rhythmic movement of the cranial bones at the contact areas, also known as the sutures. Just as in breathing, when the lungs fill with air and then empty, so there is a movement of cerebral spinal fluid up and down the spinal cord and around the brain. So, unlike the popular belief that “it’s good to have a solid nogger,” we now know that this does not mean an immovable head or cranium. The inherent motion in the cranial bones is very important to over all health. Various accidents or trauma or surgical interventions of the face and head can have a negative effect on this motion.

There are also various foramina or openings in the bones of the skull which allow nerves and blood or lymphatic vessels to pass from the cranium to the lower areas and vice versa. If any of the cranial bones is under-developed or misshapen, as often happens to be the case, then these foramina can also be malformed.

For example, they may be ovoid rather than circular because of underdevelopment, which may cause an impedance to flow of circulatory or neurological vessels going through that particular foramen. Improper drainage of our waste products through our lymphatic system or lack of oxygenation or nourishment of cranial tissues and organs may be experienced as negative effects on brain function and mental clarity.

The Maxilla
This bony structure provides visible structure to the whole mid-facial area. Eleven of the cranial bones directly contact the maxilla and the rest of the cranial bones have an intimate contact with the bones directly in contact with the upper jaw or maxilla. Therefore the position and size of the upper jaw has quite a lot to do with proper cranial development and facial aesthetics.

The entire floor of the orbit or eye sockets, where the visual globes or the eyeballs are housed, is made up of the upper jaw or maxilla. When the maxilla is not well developed, and the face is long and skinny, the eye sockets do not develop properly; the eyeballs cannot develop as a sphere, but may take on a football shape. The resultant developmental pattern can create various ophthalmic issues such as astigmatism or myopia. We can treat astigmatism with corrective lenses but the treatment does not really address the root of the issues.


Airway Obstruction
The most serious consequence of under development of the maxilla is airway obstruction and mouth breathing. Eighty five percent of the nasal airway is made up of the maxilla, which provides the floor of the nasal cavity and houses all of the nasal sinuses typically referred to as the sinus cavities. Therefore, an individual with a narrow or improperly formed maxilla will have extremely narrow nasal passages, which limit flow of air and breathing capabilities, and will thus experience difficulty in having proper sinus health and drainage.

It is an important fact that the soft tissues develop to their genetic size, even when the bones do not! You might think of the head as a box that must house all of the structures that the genetic code needs to express and that will develop, but lack of proper dimensions to the cranial bones and the cranial cavity causes overcrowding, overlapping or deviation of some soft tissue areas. This can be illustrated by the example of overpacking a suitcase.

An example of this “overpacked suitcase” in humans occurs in the nose. How often have you heard someone say, “I have a deviated septum”? The septum is the cartilaginous tissue membrane that separates the two nostrils vertically. Imagine this soft tissue developing to its normal size, but the maxilla remains underdeveloped. The developing septum has to express its dimension somewhere, so it has two choices—it either deviates or bends to one side or the other (the deviated septum) or it grows through the maxillary suture and creates the condition known as palatal tori. These are bumps or ridges in the middle of the palate and most people have them to some degree or another.


A deviated septum blocks proper nasal air flow causing the individual to take up mouth breathing most of the time. There are a variety of other soft and hard tissue conditions associated with the nasal cavity such as polyps, enlarged turbinates and muscosal conditions that also serve to restrict air flow.

A deviated septum or overgrowth of the soft tissue in the nose can cause blockage of the nostrils, leading to mouth breathing.

Breathing through the nose creates an avenue of air that’s moisturized, humidified and even somewhat filtered. Furthermore, when we breathe through our nose, the air passing through the nasal airway and contacting the turbinates–shelf- like bony structures–is slowed down. This allows the proper mixing of the air with an amazing gas produced in the nasal sinuses called nitric oxide (NO). Nitric oxide is secreted into the nasal passages and is inhaled through the nose. It is a potent vaso-dilator, and in the lungs it enhances the uptake of oxygen. NO is also produced in the walls of blood vessels and is critical to all organs.

Let’s evaluate the differences in mouth breathers and nose breathers. The consequences of mouth breathing can occur from the moment of birth because all infants are obligate nose breathers. That is the mechanism by which breast feeding and breathing can occur simultaneously. If a baby has obstructed airways, he may turn away from the breast due to lack of air and prefer a bottle, which allows him to consume his food more quickly.

A mouth breather will not be humidifying the air, or slowing it down to allow the proper mixing of NO with it. The lungs will have difficulty providing maximum oxygenation for the body with this dry, unhumidified, unfiltered and, most importantly, NO-lacking air. This constant and chronic condition affects the cardiovascular system and the heart because the smooth muscles that line all of the arteries react to this poorly oxygenated air with a kind of tightness, a kind of permanent tension, which can be very stressful and depleting to the body. Furthermore it has been clinically shown that blocking NO production in healthy individuals results in moderate hypertension and reduced heart output as well as shortened bleeding times by activation of platelet blood-clotting factors.

Due to the lack of proper oxygenation, the ability to deliver fully oxygenated blood to the cells is also much reduced. Thus mouth breathing has a negative effect on every cell in the body as it deprives them of oxygen. Overall wellness and health requires proper oxygen as every particle of our being requires oxygen. Cancer cells, by the way, are anaerobic by design. Other manifestations of mouth breathing include snoring and cessation of breathing (also known as sleep apnea), some types of headaches, hypertension without other known clinical causes, bed wetting, chronic ear or sinus infections, TMJ pain, sleep disorders and dark patches under the eyes.

Visual Diagnosis
Much valuable information can be obtained by looking at and studying the faces of traditional peoples with proper physical development and form. I am deeply grateful to Dr. Price and all of the photographers and cinematographers who have provided us with such valuable clues and information.

We can tell a lot about an individual’s physical development just by looking at the face. One of the things I look at in profile view is the nasal-labial angle. In a well developed person, this angle is an acute angle, that is, less than 90 degrees. A nasal-labial angle that is obtuse, that is greater than 90 degrees, is a sign that the maxilla is not well developed or positioned in the front-to-back dimension of the skull. The proper development of the maxilla is absolutely critical to the formation of the entire head and to the health of the entire body—and not just physical health but spiritual and emotional health as well.

Another sign of poor facial development can be detected in the eyes. When someone is looking straight at you and you can see the sclera or white of the eye, that is a tip-off to a very, very under-developed upper jaw and mid-facial area.

Another area of interest is the soft tissues and skin. Sagging and wrinkles are minimal or non-existent in people with good physical development as they age. Their faces don’t sink back into their craniums. Wrinkles happen when the scaffolding—the bony structure—becomes diminished in comparison to the muscles and skin.

As I mentioned, the soft tissues of the body grow to their genetic size, even when the bony structures do not. The skin, the tongue, the tonsils and the nasal tissues grow to their genetic size but when the nutrition is missing, the bony structures are compromised. So the face will have an excess of skin and musculature, the tongue and tonsils will be too large for the mouth. Nasal bumps can also result–the nasal tissues are out of proportion to the facial structure so they protrude. People who have proper facial development do not have nasal bumps.

Next month: Why mouth breathing causes weak chins, elongated faces, and dark circles and bags under your eyes.


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.