One thing that I’ve noticed in almost every person over 90 that I see in my practice is how wide their jaws are. If you look at the facial structures of all the interviewees, all have well-shaped and wide jaws, good cheekbones and wide nasal widths. Whenever I look at these people’s upper airways, they all have wide open spaces behind their tongues.
Most younger modern people have smaller, recessed jaws, narrow cheeks, and pinched in nasal structures. Invariably, they all have very small upper airways, and difficulty sleeping on their backs. They’re also much more prone to various illnesses such as migraines, headaches, TMJ, back problems, heart disease, anxiety and depression.
The smaller the jaws, the less room there is for your tongue, which grows to it’s normal size. When on your back, the tongue falls back due to gravity, and when you add deep sleep (due to muscle relaxation), you’ll stop breathing and wake up to turn over. Most people with dental crowding will naturally prefer to sleep on their sides or stomach. The problem is that it’s not good enough. Poor sleep quality leads to a physiologic stress state that can cause or aggravate many of the modern health conditions that we have today (anxiety, depression, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, memory loss, etc.).
Yes, your genes, your diet, your lifestyle and luck are all important factors, but the size of your upper airway is a critical factor in your potential for long life. As we all age, not only do we sag on the outside, we also sag on the inside. What I propose is that all humans are on a sleep-breathing continuum, where only the end extreme is called obstructive sleep apnea. Even if you’re “normal”, you’ll still stop breathing once in a while, which explains why you’ll toss and turn when you have a cold, or you’ll have a sore throat in the morning after you eat later. As you gain weight later in life, you’ll slowly move up the continuum.
Dr. Weston Price in his book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration describes this deterioration of our jaws and facial structures in modern times due to a radical change in our diets.