I’d always been intrigued by the lectures I saw Dr. Felix Liao giving about the connection between dental health and whole body health, but his Whole Health Dental Center just seemed too far away. Then I noticed someone posting on the Northern Virgina Families for Natural Living list that his office had moved inside the Beltway, to Falls Church. And one of my friends and members of my Holistic Moms chapter, health and fitness guru Nina Elliott of Health and Wholeness, posted an event and mentioned she was getting her mercury amalgams removed by Dr. Liao.
So I finally scheduled myself an appointment for an initial consult this summer to talk about my TMJ issues and the recurrence of my thyroid disorder and the related health woes I have been dealing with in recent months.
Is my pituitary gland struggling because of the way I put pressure into my jaw every night and whenever I am the least big stressed or upset.
What about my son’s jaw tension and his tendency to clench or want to bit when he gets upset?
With a tired baby on my lap and her brother in a playdate, I started the conversation last month with the intention to schedule a CBCT scan in the future and probably develop some kind of appliance. Meanwhile, my husband has long complained of ENT problems he associates with his orthontia and teeth he had removed. When Dr. Liao told me he was giving a lecture on helping children avoid that kind of fate, I set about to get there.
Below is an excerpt from the article I wrote about the lecture for my column at the Washington Times Communities. It was sponsored by the Northern Virginia Whole Food Meetup group and organized by the fabulous Alana Sugar, nutritionist extraordinaire.
With limited childcare, I still haven’t gone in for my scan, but my husband called Dr. Liao’s office the next day and has already had his!
Dr. Liao will be presenting at the upcoming Take Back Your Health Conference in Arlington on October 22 and 23. I’ll update this post when I know when he’s set to speak.
At the lecture I attended, folks had their heads spinning as they saw examples of form following function. Before and after photos of children and adults who had their bite corrected were startling: one boy looked as if he’d grown half a head in just a week. Facial symmetry and general vibrance improved, too.
The crux of the message was that nothing in the body happens in isolation. When we attempt to straighten teeth for cosmetic purposes, we risk causing a whole host of other problems if we don’t look at posture, alignment, and position of the bite.
If children have persistent headaches, ear problems, fatigue even after resting, chances are there is something amiss in their bite. Posture is related to the way our mouth lines up with our spine and the way our jaws line up. Cranio-Dental Disorder, Dr. Liao explained, can manifest not only in colicky babies and preschoolers with persistent ear infections; it can also contribute to struggles with academics and sports throughout life.
So why do some children come into the world with poor mouth and dental structures? A variety of causes can contribute, with nutrition one of the most powerful. Dr. Liao cited the work of Dr. Weston A. Price, a dentist who traveled the world in the 1920s and found compromised dental and overall health among people whose parents had abandoned their traditional, nutrient-dense diets for processed foods.
Photographs reveal startling differences between groups who had incorporated convenience foods and those – even in nearby villages – who held onto their ancestral diets, which were often rich in fats and almost never vegetarian, Picture wide jaws with straight teeth among the native peoples Price studied in contrast to narrow, V-shaped bites and crooked teeth in populations that ate processed food.
Other causes can include pollution from the 200 chemicals found in baby cord blood, as identified by the Environmental Working Group, and birth trauma that is not addressed early on by a chiropractor, osteopath or craniosacral therapist. Children who don’t want to give up a pacifier or stop sucking their thumb are likely trying to relieve a cranial strain, Dr. Liao said. “They are treating themselves the best way they know how,” he offered, but these habits will not address the core problem and can, in fact, create others.
Dr. Liao explained that our bite is not static, and it’s not simply mechanical. It’s part of our entire body structure. “You can’t drive straight if the steering system in your body” is not properly aligned, he explained. His “whole health” model of thinking rejects compartmentalizing the body, which he says works as a unit. By contrast, he said, many dentists fail to see he ripple effect of the jaw to other health issues, as though treating back pain, neck pain, or headaches does not fall under their job description.
Dr. Liao posited that a dental appliance should be “the first line of treatment” for snoring as it can help get the tongue out of the throat by correcting a narrow or receded jaw. It’s also possibly to expand the base of the nose by widening the palate, Dr. Liao said.
Not only can larger nostrils help with snoring, but addressing airway problems can alleviate oxygen deficiency that often results in headaches and depression in women and erectile dysfunction in men. In some cases, large tonsils restrict airways. Dr. Liao recommends working with a nutritionist, like event host Alana Sugar, to address food allergies that might affect tonsil size.
Breastfeeding helps to naturally develop a wide palate, and good nutrition from childhood can also keep a healthy individual developing a healthy bite. If children do develop problems, getting treatment early – often with expanders – can change a child’s medical fate. Dr. Liao quoted Dr. Jay Gerber who said that any treatment after age 12 is a compromise.
So what is a parent to do? Prenatally, both parents should get good nutrition from whole foods with plenty of healthy fats. Consider doing a cleanse before even trying to get pregnant. Breastfeed and follow a green lifestyle so that your children have the best chance of developing a healthy jaw and healthy body.
Observe your child’s face for balance vs. asymmetry or for other problems like pronated feet, and have him or her evaluated by age eight if you have any concerns. Dr. Liao uses a three-dimensional CBCT scan to see look not just at the bite and jaw structure but also to see if the head is mounted squarely over the body. From there, he has the information he needs to determine the right kind of appliance or complementary therapies.