What is the jaws epidemic?

Dr. Sandra Kahn and Paul Ehrlich discuss the silent epidemic sitting right under our noses: the jaws epidemic. How are smaller jaws and crooked teeth affecting our overall health? Kahn and Ehrlich cast light on a surprisingly pervasive modern orthodontic issue with a variety of surprising and serious downstream consequences to our health.

Transcription

Paul R. Ehrlich:
What malocclusion is, it's a fancy scientific name for bad bite, which basically means your teeth don't meet the way they should. They're likely to be crooked and so on. So scientists love to snow the public with big words. That's what malocclusion is, just a crooked teeth.

Dr. Sandra Kahn:
Malocclusion is basically what a parent sees in their kid when they grab them to the orthodontist and say, look, they pulled a lip down and says, look, the teeth are going in every which direction. What can I do?

Paul R. Ehrlich:
Also, if you look around the kids, not only are they wearing braces, they're often hanging their jaws open and they're not breathing through their noses. They're breathing through their mouths. When you try and fix that, very often you shove the jaws back, it interrupts the air tube that takes air to your lungs and you can wake up in the middle of the night without knowing it and get extremely stressed.

Dr. Sandra Kahn:
The air needs more of a tube-like structure to be able to get to our lungs and for eating and for speaking when you need a wider area. That's why we have all those teeth and area for a tongue to fit. But if we are using our mouth as an airway, it's going to turn very narrow and more like a tube. And that all relates to how we can breathe because our jaws are related to the size of our airway. And that can cause a lot of stress when we go to sleep.

Paul R. Ehrlich:
This isn't a trivial matter. The lack of sleep, the interruption of sleep leads to such things as cancer, heart disease, accidents on the highway, accidents by doctors who are operating on you, poor performance in school for kids, poor performance on the job for adults. It's one of the most serious epidemics that our society has ever faced, and yet it's not generally known to the public.