Littleton, CO dentist Dr. Guy Grabiak and team celebrate case study award for long-term healthy results with their patient.

The Curious Case of the Shrinking Human Jaw

Apr 24, 2024 | Diet & Nutrition

Last time, we noted that underdeveloped jaws and narrow dental arches can lead to sleep apnea. That’s not the only consequence, though.

If the jaws don’t develop as fully as they should, there’s less room for the teeth to come in straight. The adult teeth come in crowded and crooked. The bite is unbalanced. Wisdom teeth, if present, may come in at odd angles and press against other teeth.

This is more than just a cosmetic concern. Untreated malocclusion – literally, a bad bite – can mean a higher risk of cavities and gum disease, as areas of the mouth may be harder to clean. It can cause excess wear on some teeth, which can lead to tooth sensitivity. It can mean a future of chronic headaches, TMJ-related pain, and more.

Here’s the kicker, though: While the widespread need for orthodontics and wisdom tooth removal may seem totally normal to us today, the root cause – this narrow jaw problem – is relatively new to human history.

What’s Diet Got to Do with It? Everything!

Our ancestors had much broader jaw structures and straighter teeth than most of us living in the US today. The key difference? Diet.

Weston Price photos of teeth among indigenous populationsThis is something that was famously documented by Dr. Weston Price, a dentist who founded and led what ultimately became the research section of the American Dental Association. Through the early decades of the 20th century, Dr. Price roamed the world, observing dental development in traditional cultures. He found that so long as individuals ate their traditional ancestral diets, their jaws developed fully and their teeth came in straight, with no crowding. Oral disease was rare.

That all changed with the introduction of modern industrial foods, particularly refined sugar and white flour. Nutrition took a big hit. Price found that indigenous groups consuming traditional diets had at least four times the mineral content and 10 times the fat-soluble vitamins (A and D) as modern diets. These nutrient-dense traditional foods included full-fat dairy, organ meats, seafood, and fermented foods.

In contrast, the adoption of processed, nutrient-poor foods made with white flour, sugar, and vegetable oils was linked to narrowed facial structures, crowded and crooked teeth, and increased susceptibility to cavities.

Something to Chew On

There’s another factor besides nutrition that has made narrow jaws so much more common in our times: a change in how much we need to chew our food.

Our ancestors’ diets required them to chew vigorously on tough, fibrous foods like roots, nuts, and lean meats. All that chewing exercised and strengthened their jaws, allowing them to grow properly.

Our modern diets, on the other hand, are loaded with softer foods that don’t require so much chewing. The processing they undergo does a lot of the work for us. When jaws don’t get the stimulation they need from chewing tough foods, they don’t grow to their full potential.

The result? Overcrowded, crooked teeth from lack of jaw space. Underdeveloped jaws that restrict the airway, contributing to sleep apnea. A less defined, prominent jawline.

Full Jaw Development Starts Early

One final key factor in play is the lack of sufficient breastfeeding that young children may experience. The muscle movements involved with nursing put regular pressure on the soft palate, encouraging its proper expansion.

Lack of that plus a diet of soft, mushy foods after weaning can be hugely detrimental. Children’s jaws need pressure from vigorous chewing to model proper growth. Without it, their jaws can’t expand enough to accommodate all their adult teeth.

young boy eating appleTo support proper jaw development, try incorporating chewier, crunchier foods that require real effort. Fresh fruits and veggies, nuts, and tougher meats can help exercise the jawbones and musculature.

In our modern food environment, we have to be intentional about chewing for our oral health, as well as making sure that we’re eating real food so we get all of the nutrients we need for good dental development and oral health.

Emphasizing nutrient-rich animal foods like grass-fed meat and dairy, fatty fish, organ meats, and eggs can help adults maintain dental and jawbone strength. Fermented foods like kefir, yogurt, sauerkraut, and kimchi provide beneficial bacteria that aid mineral absorption. And don’t forget leafy greens and other vegetables, which offer an array of bone-supporting vitamins and minerals.

By nourishing our bodies with the nutrient density of traditional diets while intentionally chewing tough, crunchy foods, we can help prevent the dental woes that have become so commonplace. Reclaiming the dietary wisdom of our ancestors allows us to develop sound oral structures from childhood through adulthood.

lizmar thurber

Noelle Jones

Office Manager

With a robust career spanning over 20 years in the dental sector, Noelle Jones has developed a profound expertise that blends technical proficiency with visionary leadership. Starting her journey as a dental assistant, Noelle has continually expanded her skill set and knowledge base. She pursued higher education at Georgia Perimeter College, where she completed programs in dental lab technology, chairside assisting, and business management. In 2024, Noelle found her perfect match in the professional world at Denver Dentistry, a practice that embraces the principles of biological dentistry. This role not only marks a significant step in her career but also profoundly shifts her perspective on the impact dental health has on the rest of the body. Beyond her professional endeavors, Noelle is an avid adventurer who loves exploring the natural beauty of Colorado. She is on a quest to hike all the "14ers" in the state. When not scaling peaks, she enjoys traveling and cherishing moments with her husband and their three beloved dogs. Noelle's dedication to dental excellence and her commitment to a holistic approach in her field make her a pivotal member of the Denver Dentistry team.

The foundation of providing safe and personalized holistic care begins by getting to know you and your goals for your oral health and overall health, both short term and long term. Dr. Grabiak will then learn about your family’s dental and medical history, along with your dental and medical history. Afterwards, we begin your exam by taking a sample of your saliva (Sillha), checking for seven different biomarkers. That same day, we will send you home with a report showing how you scored in those different biomarker categories.

The head and neck examination is often overlooked by busy clinicians but it is as crucial as an element of the oral cancer examination. Dr. Grabiak begins his exam outside of the mouth by starting with a soft tissue check of the neck and the jaw. A thorough head and neck examination is essential for detecting early skin cancers, any overdeveloped jaw muscles that may be contributing towards bruxism, and enlarged lymph nodes that may indicate an active virus or infection.

After the extraoral exam, Dr. Grabiak begins his extensive intraoral exam. During Dr. Grabiak’s exam he is evaluating the teeth, uvula, mucosal tissues, tongue, floor of the mouth, hard and soft palate, and the oropharynx. Part of this exam includes taking high-definition photos of the mouth, all at different angles so you can see exactly what he is seeing. Our hygienist will then come in and complete a comprehensive periodontal assessment. In some cases, Dr. Grabiak and your hygienist may recommend additional testing to get to the root cause of the evidence of symptoms they are seeing in your mouth. This entire process takes roughly an hour. In some cases, depending on what Dr. Grabiak and your hygienist had found during their exam we will invite you back for a follow-up appointment called review of findings.

In preparation for the review of findings, Dr. Grabiak and your hygienist will take the time to evaluate all of the data that was collected from your examination and testing to determine your specific needs. At your review of findings appointment Dr. Grabiak will sit down with you one on one to review the data that was collected from your appointment, along with any recommendations. This allows you the time to ask Dr. Grabiak any questions that you may have about your treatment recommendations and expectations from treatment.

Jeromy Mulkey

Jeromy Mulkey

Operations Manager

Jeromy earned his Bachelor of Science in Finance from New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, New Mexico. His journey in the dental field began when he moved to Colorado in 2015 from Hannibal, New York, a small town outside of Syracuse. Starting as a patient coordinator in corporate dental, Jeromy quickly advanced to office manager and eventually managed multiple offices for a DSO, including specialty practices over the next 4 years. In 2019, his transition to holistic dentistry at Denver Dentistry began. This transition brought new challenges and a renewed passion for learning about the latest sciences and technologies integrated into their practice. Since starting at Denver Dentistry, Jeromy has enjoyed learning about safe mercury removal (SMART Protocol), airway management, ozone, salivary testing, biocompatibility testing for materials, heavy metals testing, and the systemic and oral health connection. Jeromy currently resides in Littleton, enjoying the proximity to the mountains. Outside of work, he cherishes time spent with his wife and daughter and enjoys activities such as snowboarding, bouldering, paintball, soccer, basketball, camping, and hiking. Jeromy's dedication to delivering exceptional customer service and contributing to the team's mission of bringing more healthy smiles to satisfied patients is at the core of his professional ethos.
Chelsea White

Jazmin Contreras

Dental Hygiene Assistant

A native of Guatemala and raised in Carbondale, Colorado, Jazmin Contreras embarked on her medical journey with a degree in Kinesiology from Colorado Mesa University, where she graduated at the top of her class in 2020. Her early professional life included a significant role in a chiropractic office, where she gained an appreciation for the interconnectedness of whole-body health. This experience laid the groundwork for her holistic view of healthcare. Fluent in both English and Spanish, Jazmin leveraged her linguistic skills as a medical interpreter, greatly enhancing her communication capabilities and deepening her understanding of patient needs and concerns. This role proved essential in her development as a healthcare provider, enabling her to effectively bridge cultural and linguistic barriers in medical settings. Jazmin's career trajectory took a definitive turn when she joined Denver Dentistry. Under the guidance of Dr. Grabiak, she was introduced to an innovative holistic approach to dental care that aligned with her own values and aspirations. It was here that Jazmin found her calling, thriving in an environment that embraced both traditional and alternative medical philosophies. Known for her robust critical thinking and problem-solving skills, Jazmin is passionate about educating her patients on the nuances of holistic dentistry. She is dedicated to demystifying dental care, ensuring her patients not only receive top-notch treatment but also understand the broader implications of oral health on overall well-being. When not at the clinic, Jazmin and her husband indulge in the great outdoors, pursuing activities such as hiking, camping, and kayaking. These adventures not only satisfy their love for nature but also provide Jazmin with a refreshed perspective and renewed energy, which she brings back to her patients and her practice.
lizmar thurber

Lizmar Thurber

Expanded Duties Dental Assistant

Lizmar Thurber is a highly experienced Expanded Duties Dental Assistant, distinguished by her extensive background in both traditional and holistic dental practices. Her educational journey began at the University of Florida, College of Dentistry’s Division of Continuing Education, where she specialized in Expanded Duties of Dental Auxiliary Personnel, Radiological Health, and Safety in 2002. She further enhanced her credentials by earning a Bachelor of Science in Biology with an emphasis in Pre-Medicine from Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Arizona, in 2015. In her role, Lizmar leverages a robust skill set tailored to holistic dental care. She has a profound understanding of holistic health practices and is skilled in using biocompatible materials for dental procedures, such as fillings and crowns, to reduce toxicity. Her empathetic demeanor and excellent interpersonal skills are pivotal in alleviating patient fears, thereby creating a comforting and reassuring environment. Known for her bilingual proficiency in English and Spanish, Lizmar effectively communicates with a diverse patient base, providing clear explanations of holistic dental treatments and procedures. Lizmar's exceptional communication abilities and her capacity to adapt to various treatment modalities are essential in navigating the unique aspects of holistic dental care. Her versatility and adaptability make her an invaluable asset to any dental team, enhancing patient care with a comprehensive, patient-centered approach. Beyond her professional endeavors, Lizmar cherishes the time spent with her family. Together with her husband, and their sons, she actively participates in various sports activities. They frequently travel for the Colorado Prospects baseball club and engage in other sports like basketball and soccer. Additionally, Lizmar serves her community as a worship pastor, where she shares her passion for music and guides others in their spiritual journey with Christ.

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