As insights from 2020 suggest, sharks only seem to be upping their hip quotient with each passing year. Which, yay for sharks! The less great news? Not that we weren’t already different enough from our distant, infinitely cooler saltwater cousins — we are — but we may be coming to resemble them less and less.
In July of last year, researchers at Stanford discovered the human jaw is actually shrinking. The findings indicate that softer processed foods and plusher bedding (leading to mouths falling ajar at night) each contribute to underuse and poor oral posture. And it’s adversely impacting our health from the head down.
Why Jaws Shrink
The bones of our body are constantly remodeling through a balance of breaking down and rebuilding tissue. Where bone cells end up is largely determined by your body in response to its environment. After tooth extractions, for example, the removed tooth needs a suitable replacement. If not, neighboring dental will soon begin shifting to fill the space (bad), drastically reordering the orientation of teeth (worse).
It all comes down to use.
Think of each tooth as having a complementary buddy which it relies on for exercise: And they need their exercise. Without the supporting tooth to help get those reps in, it no longer serves the function it once had.
The body picks up on this and begins reclaiming cells from the unused bone for use elsewhere. This is what is happening to our jaws.
So how do we go about reclaiming our shark smiles? Up to now, common orthodontic solutions have centered around correcting problems of the mouth rather than preventing them — whether in the form of braces, removing wisdom teeth or managing jaw pain.
By focusing instead on prevention, we effectively sidestep the need for those interventions in the first place.
Oral Wellness from the Get-Go
Much of the jaw’s development takes place between birth and adolescence. From an early age, promotion starts with keeping the jaw appropriately active while moreover encouraging proper oral posture, especially through childhood.
For parents with infants, that means fewer mushy foods in the transition toward solids, and sugar-free gum for children of recommended age groups.
Kids aren’t the only ones to benefit from better oral posture, though. Keep waking with your mouth open? It might be time for a firmer pillow, or using multiple while you sleep. Since teeth do much of their shifting at night, having a closed mouth will help keep teeth in check while further preventing tooth decay and gum disease.
How you position your tongue is yet another key part of the oral posture equation, as it plays into the mouth’s alignment. Ideally your tongue should rest along the roof of your mouth, without obstructing or pressing up against the backs of your front teeth.
Proper tongue posture helps maintain a wider air passage for breathing as well as a more spacious palate, ensuring that teeth don’t go growing in directions they shouldn’t.
Our mouths are more than the sum of their parts. Keeping them in top form begins and ends with simple yet effective steps — which we’re building toward each day, one smile at a time.