Saturday, May 31, 2014

Why We're NOT Using Conventional Braces

This post is the second in a series about alternatives to conventional orthodontics. 

My 7-year-old daughter needs orthodontics The conventional approach would be to wait until she
gets older, then use braces to straighten her teeth. Some orthodontists would even recommend extracting some of her teeth to make space for the remaining teeth to be straightened.


Problems with Braces

The main reasons why we are not starting with braces are:
  • Braces do not work in the long term. My husband had braces as an adolescent. At the end of using braces, his teeth were straight. However, now as an adult, his teeth are slowly moving back to their original positions. So the braces made them look better for a time, but in the end they are reverting back to being crooked. This is a well-known phenomena, known as orthodontic relapse.  Nowadays it is a common recommendation that retainers need to be used for the rest of life after braces, to prevent relapse of the teeth into their original positions.
  • Braces do not go to the root of the problem, which is that the jaw is not large enough to accommodate the teeth. Rather, braces just seek to straighten the teeth to make them look better. When there is not enough room for all of the teeth, perfectly sound teeth are often removed prior to the installation of the braces. I want my daughter to be able to keep all of her teeth!
  • With braces, we would need to wait until my daughter was nearly done growing to get started. That means that we would have missed out on many opportunities for jaw growth.  


Thinking Beyond Just Straight Teeth

Yes, straight teeth look better than crooked teeth, but there is a larger goal than just having straight teeth. Years ago, when I read Weston A. Price's monumental book, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, one of the cases that made a huge impression on me was the story of a sixteen-year-old boy who had Down's Syndrome (which was referred to as being mongoloid during Price's time).

"This boy at the age of sixteen was infantile in many of his characteristics and developments... he had a mentality of about four years... He played on the floor with blocks and with rattles like a child. ... I determined to widen his arch by moving the maxillary bones apart about one-half inch. The position of his teeth before the moving of the bones is shown in Fig. 126.
"...With the movement of the maxillary bones laterally, as shown progressively in Fig. 126, there was a very great change in his physical development and mentality. He grew three inches in about four months. His moustache started to grow immediately; and in twelve weeks' time the genitals developed from those of a child to those of a man, and with it a sense of modesty. His mental change was even more marked.... In a few weeks' time he passed through stages that usually take several years. At first, he got behind the door to frighten us; later, he put bent pins on chairs to see us jump when we sat down, and finally he became the cause of a policeman's coming to the office from where he was conducting traffic on the corner below to find who it was squirting water on him when his back was turned. He developed a great fondness for calling people over the telephone, wanted to borrow my automobile to take his mother for a drive, and with his arm caressingly about the shoulders of one of the secretaries, invited her to go with him to a dance. All this change developed in about twelve weeks.   

FIG. 125. These views show physical changes in the mongoloid type due to movement of maxillary bones to stimulate the pituitary gland in base of brain. Left, front and side view before, center, front and side view in thirty days. Right, front and side view six months after. Aged sixteen, infantile before, adolescent after operation. (Image from Project Gutenberg)

 "A most remarkable event happened in connection with this procedure. He lived in another city, and so, while with me, stayed in a boarding house at a little distance from my office in order that he might have frequent, and almost constant attention. On his return to his home town, his efficiency had increased to such an extent that his mother could send him with the money to the grocery store with the order for the day's groceries, and he could bring back the right change and could tell when it was correct. He could also come alone to me ninety miles by railroad and make two changes of trains and the various transfers on the street cars of the city with accuracy and safety."

FIG. 126. These x-ray pictures show the position of the teeth before operation to move maxillary bones; and progessively, by the dates shown, the widening of the upper arch.... The space was retained with a fixed bridge carrying two additional teeth. (Image from Project Gutenberg)

This case illustrates that the size of the jaw can have a very large effect on the brain.  Because I had read Weston Price's book previously, when I noticed that my daughter's baby teeth were crowded, I knew that I wanted to find a way to help her jaw grow larger.

While my daughter does not show any signs of delayed development, I certainly want to give her every opportunity to grow into her fullest potential. So rather than using braces to just straighten her teeth, I would much rather that my daughter's upper and lower jaw actually grow larger to accommodate her teeth. 

In the next post of this series, I will discuss alternatives to braces that work by encouraging the jaw to grow to make room for the teeth.

Did your teeth experience orthodontic relapse after braces? Have you read Weston Price's Nutrition and Physical Degeneration?


Unknown said...

Hi Sarah,
I started reading your blog when I started GAPS in December. Like you, I changed careers (I was a medical doctor and became a psychotherapist) and am so much happier with what I get to do now. I've greatly appreciated the amount of information you have on your site and I was encouraged with the ease you've been creating with it and your family, and the changes you've made in your life / lives. I started your hair washing practice (baking soda and apple cider), for example, and it's working great as a replacement for my shampoos.

I am also really appreciating your descriptions of the broader picture, including today's citations and pictures from Weston Price's book. The story, and results, are so dramatic, encouraging and heart warming.

I've found examples from the literature in the early to mid 1900s that we have really ignored or put aside in our standard medical model and I think it is eye-opening and helpful to keep looking to sources like these (my area of exploration is chronic illness, including my own).

I had a retainer in my teens for a number of years and am not aware that my teeth reverted back. I'd never heard that this happens with some regularity. I can't wait to learn what you are exploring as options, especially given Price's results!

Megan said...

I love your posts. Very interesting. One of our three may need braces. And interestingly, she's the one who was conceived after GAPS, but probably not long enough eating WAPF. My husband and I have very different genetic lines. His family has wider jaw lines typical of Scandinavia. My lines trend more toward the Celtic side- who Weston A Price acknowledged were typically thinner faced. Our third daughter trends toward my side. We have been eating strict WAPF, super nutrient dense for 4 years now. I have noticed that my 6 1/2 year old's middle third of his face has widened. And his bone density has increased- shown by increase from 65th percentile weight to 95th. He is above 97th in height and very healthy looking. Not at all overweight. He actually looks lean. He had a similar body structure to my third child at her age (currently 23 months). So I'm hoping that following the same WAPF approach will result in her face widening and increasing bone density for her as well. It is just so good to tangible results after all these years! I think most people think the amount of money and energy we spend on food is excessive and unnecessary. And all we've had until now is behavioral results (which no one really believes in). Anyway, I'm looking forward to reading more of your experience. I always appreciate your posts. I have learned a lot. And it helps to hear of someone else who is on a similar journey. Thank you.

Megan said...

Sorry for typos and missing words. I'm typing on my smartphone with kids on my lap. :)

Megan said...

And yes, both my husband and I experienced relapse. And I have read Nutritional and Physical Degeneration. The part you quote is very interesting. I remember reading it, but am curious to see how modern day dentists approach the process. Especially since we too may need it.

Anonymous said...

I find this interesting as my 5.5 yo has very crowded teeth and the dentist starting talking about her needing braces 2-3 yrs ago. However, as open and well-versed I am in alternative health and nutritional practices, I have never in my life heard of orthodontic relapse. I had braces at 15-17 and my sister did too. Neither of us have had a relapse. And no one I know who ever had braces did either. The fact that your husband had that experience is probably relevant for your daughter's situation since that's her dad. But otherwise a sample of one is not much to base this whole phenomenon on.

Megan said...

Really? I thought this was common knowledge! Almost everyone I know has had a relapse! Most minor. Usually front teeth remain relatively straight, but jaw alignment shifts, throwing off bite slightly.

Megan said...

I think most orthodontists recommend patients wear retainers indefinitely at this point. My 6 younger siblings were told they should wear retainers forever to avoid relapse. I wore mine for four years after my braces were removed and still had shifting. My younger sister still wears hers nightly and she is 27! As far as I know, the other sibs don't and many have experienced shifting. Maybe a lot of people don't notice? I think, in general, people ignore the small signs with their bodies and don't pay attention until a major problem presents itself. After reading your comment, I thought maybe relapse was just more common in my circles, but a Google search on "orthodontic relapse" turned up a lot of results.

Sarah Smith said...

There is not a "sample of one" regarding orthodontic relapse. Otherwise there would not be a name for the phenomenon. Try searching google for orthodontic relapse, and you will see that this is a well-known occurrence that affects many people.

Unknown said...

My husband had braces and teeth pulled and the are certainly not straight and perfect I guess they must have relapsed too. He has always said the braces never worked regardless of having them on for years as a child.

Anonymous said...

Hi thanks for this informative post. I had 4 perfect adult molars removed manually while I was awake in the dentists chair when I was 13yrs old and then braces. Not only was the procedure terrifying and painful, the recovery and healing process took such a long time. Not what a young teenage girl needs to go through. Not only have my teeth relapsed and are far from straight, my wisdom teeth are sinking and twisting due to the lack of support from the removal of the molars in front of them. The glue from the braces has also left life long stains on my front teeth which I am very self conscious of. I am so glad I have read your post as my daughters teeth do look crowed and I will do anything for her to avoid what I went through.

Anonymous said...

I have never had a relapse either. Of course my issue wasn't with crowded teeth. I have an autosomal dominant genetic defect(either get the bad gene or not) that causes cleft lip or palate issues in my family. It is considered a "syndrome" rather than isolated cleft and it comes with missing teeth. Even without the cleft people in my family will get a missing tooth where the cleft would be or somewhere else. It has affected my mom, sister, and younger son with no clefts and my older son and myself with palate for me and lip for him. Unfortunately had no idea of the 50/50 chance of passing this on until after I was pregnant with my 2nd and saw a geneticist.

Mom Thompson said...

I have had 2 children told at some point they need braces, but later didn't. My Functional Medicine Doctor told me that one must optimize protein update to increase jaw size. The doctor and I were both amazed when we gave him pancreatic enzymes and his jaw begin to grow right away. Another daughter I did pancreatic enzymes for, began to drop out baby teeth that had remained with adult teeth in her mouth! I would like to add here that my children had a pancreatic definciency, so this worked. I am not saying everyone will see improvement this way. I have been cautioned about giving enzymes to young children who do not need it. A stool test was used to find that my son was deficient.

I had four teeth removed and the remainder spread neatly in my mouth when I was young. I find that my jaw is small with nowhere for my tongue. I wore my retainer into my 20's before I lost it. My teeth moved some, but not too much. My husband also had used braces and had his teeth moveing back some. We were both somewhat disappointed with our orthodontic treatment because of the shifting of the teeth back.

I once stated that I would never get braces for my children. BUT when their teeth were really coming in crowded, I reconsidered and 3 (soon 4) used early orthodontic treatment. One of the 3 that had early treatment is now in her twenties and her lower teeth have recrowded badly. I would have given her the Phase 2 treatment if I had realized it. Two of them have satisfactory teeth.

A few of my children used a Phase 1 style to braces. We started one as early as six. Her baby teeth were not falling out, but remaining with the others. After the braces went on, she started dropping baby teeth left and right. This daughter has grown and we never did the Phase 2 braces, but her teeth seem adequately spaced.

One son had the phase 1 braces treatment. He was perhaps 8 when the braces went on. They were removed fairly soon after that. His mouth continued to grow and he had enough space for wisdom teeth if he had them.

Currently one daughter looked like she had a severe under bite. I realized that she purposely thrust her lower jaw forward, but I wasn't sure why. We had an orthodontist look at it. He worked with her quite a while and figured out that she thrust her jaw because two teeth were in the way for her to close her mouth normally. The plan for her is to use a retainer to move those two teeth, so she can close her mouth without the thrusting. Meanwhile, the two teeth in question appear to be moving even before the retainer is fitted. They should be able to tell if this is the case when they attempt to fit the retainer later this week. Using the retainer method to move these teeth is a great dollar savings for us. We still may have to resort to braces in the future. For now, though I have bright hopes that our first attempts will work. The orthodontists uses another word for a retainer when it is used to move teeth. However, I don't remember the name, and he said that it basically was a retainer.

You may want to make sure your child is getting good nutrition if the jaw size is small. Personally, I had an undiagnosed case of celiac disease that likely impended my absorbing protein. Celiac has over 300 symptoms (including teeth that have their enamel disappear and multi-colored teeth) and I recommend looking into celiac even if you don't have any family members diagnosed.

Unknown said...

I read Price's book as well and this story completed rolled me over. Amazing! Good for you for going to the root of the problem. Americans are so willing to gloss over things and be satisfied with just making it look good, whether it's food or teeth or breasts or ... on and on. Looking forward to you next post...

Jessica said...

Thanks for this! I am very interested in read more. My second has a fused skull and we have chosen to use alternative therapies for treatment (which involves moving the bones in her skull in order to give the brain room to grow).

Anonymous said...

I'm also interested in this story. My husband and I both have small jaws, both had braces ( I did for four years). He still uses his retainer but I quit a long time ago and my teeth are shifting. My oldest son, I think, is going to have a small jaw also. Evie

Anonymous said...

Some of those 'Americans' and even other 'nationalities' are working second jobs to pay for braces because they trusted the so-called professional. My parents were in that group. And they certainly didn't try to buy me breasts. Wow.

Anonymous said...

Well, Ryan was suppose to wear his retainer. Like his sister who didn't either we wasted a heck of a lot of money. :) It's no wonder the retainers are now permanent. Alivia has her first follow up tomorrow. She is having no problems with the expander as compared to other posts I have read about kids complaining of pain. The turning of half turns rather than full or 2 full every 2-4 days seems to be the difference. It gives the palate time to adjust. She has no problem wearing it 24 hours a day except for Sound of Music rehearsals.

Anonymous said...

I wish I had heard about this sooner!! I desperately want braces, but I'm on a deadline. I'm getting married in a year and a half and my orthodontist says that's just enough time to fix the problems I have with conventional braces.

Anonymous said...

We did pallet expansion on both our girls. Starting early is very important with pallet expansion. Erika was seven when we started and she was done by ten with just pallet expansion. Sonja started at nine and finished at thirteen. She had both pallet and braces. Here's more about our experience:

Sarah Smith said...

Thanks for sharing your experience and your link! It is good to hear form someone who is on the completed side of things. I have been very surprised at how quickly the jaw can start to widen in my 7-year-old.