Until recently (the last few years) I have never thought about the link between straight teeth and ‘good’ posture, it wasn’t something taught in my physiotherapy studies at university. However having worked as a head, neck and jaw physio for a few years now I have gone down the rabbit hole of everything to do with the mouth including the teeth. I mean you have to become familiar with the teeth when you are treating the jaw… the systems are working together!
In the past the jury has been out in terms of finding a clear link in the literature between postural control (the ability to assume and maintain an upright position that is considered neutral) and occlusion (another name for the way your teeth meet together). However; a recent study found has found that there is a positive relationship with posture and occlusion. What the researchers found in the study was that postural control was improved when the diverse malocclusions of the participants were corrected artificially by positioning the jaw into a neutral position. The results were not as strong (statistically weak) when the participants were standing in a stable condition but there was a lot stronger correlation when the person was fatigued or standing on unstable conditions.
The researchers have a neurological explanation for this relationship, they think that sensory information from the trigeminal nerve, a cranial nerve that is responsible for innervating the muscle’s of mastication, is having an effect on postural control.
How is this all likely to be happening?
First lets look at the basic dental occlusions in the picture below.
Dental occlusion could be altering the position of the head and neck which then has an effect on the muscles of the this area. It is likely to alter the functional pattern of the muscles and then alter our sense of balance. So let’s talk a little bit about class II occlusion. Studies have found that Class II is linked to altered head position as well as altering the functional pattern of the masticatory muscles. As well as this some have suggested there is an increase in cervical hyperlordosis (a deeper than normal curve of the neck) and weak body posture.
So how do we get a class II occlusion?
Well this all starts before the age of 7. To develop a class 1 occlusion you really need your jaw and cranial bones to have developed well, when this happens you will grow a straight dental arch as an adult. As well as this you need good tongue posture, have a nasal breathing pattern and good lip muscles that allow lip closure. A fantastic blog post from functional dentist Dr Steven Lin explains this in his post What causes crooked teeth.
If you would like to know more about this subject feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Julià-Sánchez, S., Álvarez-Herms, J., Gatterer, H., Burtscher, M., Pagès, T., & Viscor, G. (2015). Dental Occlusion Influences the Standing Balance on an Unstable Platform. Motor Control, 19(4), 341–354. doi:10.1123/mc.2014-0018