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Posture and Dental Health

Posture and Dental Health:

When most of us think of standing up straight, we probably arch our back a bit to straighten our spine.  We might even shift our weight on our feet.  But did you realize that your bite can affect your posture and how youir posture affects your health?

When we speak of good posture, we mean that the head and spine are balanced in relation to gravity.  Bones provide the framework for the body.  Joints are formed where two bones come together.  Muscless attach our bones and supply power for movement.  Nearly every muscle of the body works in a coordinated effort to keep us upright and moving.  

Poor posture can place unnecessary wear and tear on the joints.  It can also cause the muscles to suffer.  When your muscles suffer, so do you.  We might liken our posture to a delicately balanced mobile.  Repostitioing any part of the mobile will affect all the other parts.  Maintaining the balance of the whole structure means that all the parts have to shift.  

The Postural Chain

When any part of your body is out of alignment with the other parts, there is a similar chain reaction.  We can picture the body as a postural chain, with the feet at the end.  What do you suppose is at the other end?  The head?  You're close - but more specifically, it's the teeth.

When your upper and lower teeth are closed together, each tooth actually forms a skeletal relationship with it's opposing tooth.  This bite determines the position of your head and your spine.  To demonstrate this, tilt your head backwards and close your teeth lightly together.  Notice that your back teeth hit first.  Now tilt your head forward - toward your chest - and again lightly touch your teeth together.  Now ther front teeth hit first.  These exagerated movements demonstrate how the bite and head position affect one another.

It's just like the song, "The jaw bone is connected to the head bone, the head bone is connectied to the neck bone...etc."  The teeth are part of the skeletal systen.  When your teeth are improberly aligned, ther is often a compensating effect - or chain reaction  - throughout the postural chain.  The body will adjust itself.  This can involve muscles in the neck, back and even those of the pelvis, legs and feet.

Poor posture is not often thougth of as a health problem.  Over time, however, the consequences of the postural neglect can be as damaging as an injury.

Specific symptoms of a poorly postured bide include:
*Numbing or tingling sensation in one hand
*Pain in the jaw, head, neck, shoulders, back
*Difficulty clearing the ears

Other related signs of postural neglect include:
*One shoulder higher than the other
*Muscle at the breast bone feeling tender to the touch
*Pant legs must be hemmed to different lenghts
*Heels wear unevenly

Most postural problems can be improved at and age, yet the longer the problem exists, the more difficult it is to correct.

Bite and Posture

Many people carry their head too far forward. Ideally when standing, a vertical line coming straingt up from the floor would pass through the center of the ear, shoulder, hip and arch of the foot.

If the head is carried in front of this line, it places tremendous strain on the muscles of the shoulders, back, neck and head.  The avgerage human head weighs 15 pounds, and with each inch forwatd the strain of supporting the head triples!  Further, the shoulders roll forward and the jaw is pulled back.  This changes the bite.

The bite can also influence the position of your head.  If your knee joint was displaced, you would probably compensate by limping slightly.  When your teeth are inproperly aligned, the muscles in your jaw compensate by torquing your jaw slightly to bring your teeth together.  This causes the muscles to work harder.  Over time certain muscles may become strained.  Muscles which are under constant strain become shortened.  They may eventually pull the head to one side or the other.  Yet, rather than walking around with a crooked head, we usually adjust our body to keep our eyes and ears level to the ground.  This further aggervates the bite condition and may cause problems in other areas of the body - sometimes a distance from the teeth!

We see, then, that your bite and your head posture are very much related - one affects the other.

Correcting Dental Posture

Postural problems are often treated with some form of physical therapy.  Treatment may include streatching muscles which have become shortened over a period of time, or teaching you to move your body in ways to minimize thre stress placed on various muscles and joints.  Correcting long term postural habits however is not so simple as learning to "stand up straight".  Postural neglect can cause physical changes of the bones, joints, and teeth.

When your bite is involved with a postural problem, the dentist must correct it so that the muscles, bones and teeth can function without strain and tension.  Because of the postural position of the head, neck and shoulders it is so closely related to the bite, both dental therapy and physical therapy may be needed to correct the bite.  Doing so will then frequently relieve seemingly unrelated symptoms such as pain in the head, neck and back.

As the twig is bent, so grows the tree.  So too, our body will adapt to it's use over time.  Poor postural habits become more difficult to correct the longer they exist, and they also become more injurious to your body.  If you have and of these symptons described, discuss them with your specially-trained dentist, who will determine whether of not they can be relieved by dental or other treatment. 

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