Does Diet Affect Your Child’s Facial Development?

If your dentist suggested that what you eat affects the health and development of your child’s teeth, you’d nod your head and agree.  After all, at this point, everyone is aware of how sugary snacks and drinks speed tooth decay and contribute to cavities and other dental woes, right?

But, the effect our diet has on our teeth may be more complicated than that. Our western diet of processed and nutritionally empty foods may have serious consequences for the way teeth and jaws form.  And, it may start as early as birth.

Lack of Nutrition Leads to Braces?

Dr. Weston A. Price (1870-1948) was a dentist often called the Isaac Newton of nutrition. He traveled the world studying different cultures and their dental formations, and theorized that many modern tooth issues – such as crowding, overbites and spacing – were due to overall societal changes in diet and nutrition and an increase in consumption of flour, sugar and processed foods.

Although genetics plays a role, he believed such a diet in lacking in nutrient dense foods had a powerful physical effect on the development of jaw and bone structure. Evidence of increasingly common dental issues within more recently industrialized societies supports his research.

Do Your Teeth Need to Work Out, Too?

Although we know that sugars and starches lead to bacteria and increased tooth decay, the very textures we chew may have an effect on how our teeth develop as children.

Before the advent of our agricultural society, ancient humans strenuously chewed through meat, nuts and wild plants. Modern diets are often softer and require less jaw strength to bite through. This may also change a child’s mandible growth during formative years.

Breast vs Bottle: How Are Teeth Affected?

Variations in tooth and jaw formation may occur as early as the first few months of life. Breast-feeding has been demonstrated to provide optimal oral mechanical stimulation for developing infants. The shape and positioning of a breast versus a bottle may have a strong effect on the growth and positioning of babies’ teeth.

Although some of these theories are debated, there is enough evidence to support the idea that modern, softer diets may have an impact on jaw development. Before the Agricultural Revolution, incidents of malocclusion and wisdom teeth impaction were practically unheard and are now quite common. And, incredibly, human faces have become 5 to 10% smaller over the course of last few thousand years – which is really a blink of an evolutionary eye.

You may not be able to avoid braces for your child, but you can you support healthy tooth and jaw development. Besides practicing good oral hygiene, make sure your kids are eating nutrient-dense foods, including choices that exercise chewing muscles and encourage proper oral posture. See a family dentist that takes a holistic, whole-body approach to oral care.

Healthy bodies start with healthy teeth. With a location in Alexandria, VA. TMJ & Sleep Therapy Centre of the Greater Washington DC Area provides a holistic approach to care that incorporates total-body health and wellness. Learn more at