We are doing it to ourselves. The dysevolution of our airways has begun, little by little since the Industrial Revolution. Our faces have begun to shrink, the scaffolding effect our large jaws once provided is long gone due to our tongues not having to work anymore. Most humans have been left with long alien like faces with only a semblance of cheekbones. If that isn’t bad enough, most of us have been left with some type of breathing issues a result of our noses turning into that of a bulldog.
After working in the world of health and fitness for the last 20 years, I came across a term about a year ago that may be the single best indicator of someone’s health now that I understand it’s impact. INTERMOLAR WIDTH, the measurement in millimeters between the mesial-lingual cusps of the 1st set of molars on the Maxilla, the upper jaw. This number is critical in understanding the size of someone’s airway relative to their age. Since the roof of the mouth is also the base of the nose, this number provides some good insight into how large someone’s nasal passages are and how they might breathe as a result. It also sheds some light about how large the oropharyngeal airway is at the back throat. This is critical in knowing whether the upper and lower jaws sit forward providing adequate space to move air or if one has a cramped space to the jaw being small in nature. Every human today feels the effect of our diminishing airways, it’s just a matter of how bad!
Comparatively, an adult from 1,000 years ago anywhere in the world regardless of age, sex, ethnicity had an intermolar width in the low 50’s. Modern day, adults who grow up in more populated cities tend to have smaller measurements ranging from 29-34mm, and depending on diet those from more rural areas will have larger measurements.
Mike Mew, one of the world’s leading experts in the world of orthodontics and airway health has gone to great lengths to start to educate the world on this issue and what can be done to start to make the necessary changes in order to recapture our shrinking airways. Most people are unaware of the dramatic changes that have occurred over the last few hundred years, and as a result many doctors, orthos, dentists, and ENT’s aren’t even aware of this issue. Without awareness, many humans are left with a host of health issues that stem from their airways not allowing for proper respiration resulting in chronically driven nervous systems, high levels of inflammation in the body, and the inability to buffer the stresses of modern day life with quality deep restorative sleep.
The softer the foods, and reduced chewing from a young age have left our tongues and jaw muscles ill equipped to push our jaws forward and up to ensure by the time we are adults that our mouths have adequate space for everything. Nature once provided a beautiful cage to preserve our ever so important “airway”. Today most of us are left trying to manage an adult size tongue in the cage of a small child. The equivalent of wearing high heels all day with a shoe that’s two sizes too small.
All our teeth don’t fit in our mouths anymore, shouldn’t that tell us something. If all our fingers or toes didn’t fit on our bodies by the time we were adults and we had to get some removed, would most of us be ok with that? How come we think it’s perfectly fine to have teeth pulled and don’t question it. Most adults today had at least four adult teeth pulled in their early teens when putting braces on, and then had their wisdom teeth pulled somewhere around twenty years old due to issues with pain or being impacted. That mean’s by the time we are adults, ¼ of our teeth do not fit. If five of your fingers and toes didn’t fit on your body by twenty, the world would probably take more notice! Yet a few 100 years ago they all used to fit, and they were pretty much straight for 99% of this planet. That means our airways have gotten at least 25% smaller in a short period of time and no one is stopping to ask what this is doing to our health.
25% is just the tip of the iceberg, the majority of humans have jaws that are more like thirty to fifty percent smaller coupled with modern day high society stress, allergens, and chemicals in the air. Mother nature designed us to be able to breath and sleep well to buffer the stresses of life, and maintain our single greatest asset in this life, our health. Yet, we have managed to chop our airways in half over the last few hundred years and we wonder why society is plagued with mental disorders, health issues, and a sleep disordered breathing epidemic.