The importance of proper chewing and its relationship to health

August 19, 2015

In the coming months and years, the idea of chewing and learning about the mechanics of chewing will become all the rage. The physiological benefits of chewing have been understood for a while. However, the magnitude of the benefits in the context of epigenetics is a game-changer. Many dental hygienists across the country visit schools during the academic school year to teach youngsters about oral hygiene.

 

"Darwinian dentistry has been providing evidence that the volume of the sinus and oropharyngeal complex is decreasing in size in generations as opposed to that level of change over tens of thousands of years. We’re at a crisis stage."

In the coming months and years, the idea of chewing and learning about the mechanics of chewing will become all the rage. The physiological benefits of chewing have been understood for a while. However, the magnitude of the benefits in the context of epigenetics is a game-changer.

Many dental hygienists across the country visit schools during the academic school year to teach youngsters about oral hygiene. It may be time to teach chewing instead, especially to the younger kids and particularly to young and expectant mothers. A few of the valuable benefits of chewing are listed below.

1. Chewing can be affected by insufficient nasal breathing (due to enlarged lymph tissue like tonsils and adenoids) and impacts the function of the following:

a. Temporomandibular joint (TMJ)

b. Muscle tension and tone

c. Dental occlusion or malocclusion

d. Saliva production or lack of

e. Neurological or genetic disorders such as strokes, hemiparesis, hemifacial  microsomia, and traumatic brain injury

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2. Excessive chewing of gum leads to hypertrophic masseters and often to TMJ disorders and facial pain. Excessive gum chewing occurs with gums containing extended flavor times.

3. Poor chewing is characterized by:

a. Chewing with the mouth open

b. Smacking noises

c. Inefficient breaking down of the food particles

d. Poor salivation and food residues in the mouth after swallowing

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4. Poor chewing increases the viscosity of the bolus, impacting swallowing

5. Nuts, seeds, dried fruit, kale, raw spinach, carrots, raw cabbage, raw fennel, raw broccoli, apples with peel, and meat are some foods that promote good chewing.

To chew properly, one must have balanced muscles, teeth that occlude, and a working airway system that comes from the nose/sinus complex. Today’s foods are soft. Think of a burger from a fast food establishment. Imagine chewing it without teeth. No problem, right? Children with airway issues choose, or demand, foods that are easy to masticate, bolus, and swallow. Inquiring about food choices should be part of the discussion with children age 3 and over when they’re in the dental hygiene chair.

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The study of the facial musculature is called orofacial myofunctional study. An OMT is a therapist who works with the structures of the face and mouth to balance and teach the owner how to use them to the best effect. Darwinian dentistry has been providing evidence that the volume of the sinus and oropharyngeal complex is decreasing in size in generations as opposed to that level of change over tens of thousands of years. We’re at a crisis stage. Baby lead weaning and using actual foods instead of traditional baby foods will help increase the need for chewing and increase the size of the airway complex, including the mandible, maxillae, anterior sinuses, and the oropharyngeal complex. This type of activity will start to nullify the epigenetic effect of the child’s grandparents’ diet.

Are you interested in learning more? The first congress of the Academy of Applied Myofunctional Science is meeting September 9-13 at the Biltmore in downtown Los Angeles. International speakers will speak on sleep apnea, breathing, and posture. Learn more about it by visiting www.aamsinfo.org.

Author bio

Shirley Gutkowski, RDH, BSDH is the owner of Cross Link Presentations, integrating oral and systemic health in presentations to dental, medical, and consumer groups across the country. She has contributed to dental textbooks, journals in multiple disciplines, and consumer publications about the links between oral and systemic health. Her podcast, Cross Link Radio, deals with these topics as well and remains the only health podcast that highlights the mouth as a contributor to good overall health. Learn more at www.crosslinkradio.com. Gutkowski also guides a dental hygienist mastermind focusing on helping hygienists build or improve on their oral systemic practice.

 

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