Research shows soft foods may lead to smaller jaws and crowded teeth

crowding of the mouth

When we meet someone with naturally straight teeth, it’s a shock! “You’re so lucky!” we say. Why are crooked and crowded teeth so common? Are we at the mercy of our genetics when it comes to naturally straight teeth? New research suggests that we have more control than we think over whether we develop crooked teeth, and it all comes down to diet.

The link between food and jaw size 

A study from the University of Kent compared the lower jaw sizes of 11 different populations across the globe. Dr. Noreen von Cramon-Taubadel from the University’s School of Anthropology and Conservation found that the shape and size of the lower jaw was correlated with the dietary traditions of the population.

Across the globe, populations that were primarily hunter-gatherers had stronger, larger jaws than populations that were agricultural. This is important because agriculture is associated with softer foods like cooked grains, potatoes, beans, etc. Hunter-gatherer populations are more likely to do more chewing of tough, fibrous foods in their daily eating. Thus the association is made that chewing harder foods causes the jaw to grow larger in response to the pressure put on it, in the same way that working out keeps the bones of the arms and legs stronger. Bones grow and strengthen in relation to the stress put on them.

Our modern diet is causing smaller jaws and crooked teeth 

Our modern, westernized diets are full of foods that are soft and put very little pressure on our jaws, unlike our ancient diets or even the diets of hunter-gatherer populations today. Think breads, burgers, cooked grains and vegetables, baked goods, soups, etc. Very little chewing is required with what we eat most of the day. Think about it – when was the last time you ate something that you had to chew and chew? If you did, you probably complained about it!

But without the pressure of foods like crunchy vegetables and fruits, uncooked grains, and fibrous plants, our jaws grow smaller and, therefore, our teeth don’t have as much space as they need, resulting in crooked teeth.

Start today – Your child’s smile is still growing 

Want to give your child the best shot toward a strong jawline and straight teeth? Focus on creating a diet that requires lots of chewing. Replace processed foods and mushy cooked vegetables with raw fruits and veggies with crunch – like carrots, apples, celery – and whole uncooked grains like millet, oats and barley. Anything that makes your child crunch and chew gives your child’s jaw a message to grow – potentially eliminating the need for extensive dental work, braces, or orthodontic appliances in the future.

Want to know more about your child’s orthodontic options? 

Give Atlanta Orthodontic Specialists a call today. We’ve helped children and adults all over the Atlanta metro area achieve the straight, gorgeous smiles they love. We’ll be happy to answer all of your questions and put your child on the road to a smile they’ll love for life.