Most people know that teeth help us speak and chew food. However, an important, often overlooked function of teeth is that they help keep your face as long as it is.
If you open your mouth all of the way and then close it, you’ll hit on your teeth. If you didn’t have any teeth, you would be able to close down much further, which would make your face appear to be shorter.
The picture above shows an elderly man who removed his dentures for the picture. As you can see, without any teeth to hold his jaw bones apart, the space between the tip of his nose and chin is shorter than you would see in someone with teeth. Also, you can see that his mouth area appears to be slightly puckered inwards because he doesn’t have any teeth to support the his lips and the area around his mouth.
Here’s a couple more photos to demonstrate this point. Here’s a profile view of an older man missing his teeth:
And here’s a front view of the same man:
The technical name for the space between the jawbones when the teeth are touching is called the vertical dimension of occlusion or VDO for short. If you’re curious about the relative lengths of a face with a normal VDO, look at this image on Google Images.
Ways Your Face Gets Shorter When You Lose the Vertical Dimension of Occlusion
Anything that causes you to lose teeth or tooth structure, can alter your VDO and thus make your face look shorter. Here’s a list of a handful of things that can cause you to lose some VDO and make your face look shorter:
1- Losing teeth, especially the back teeth that bear a lot of the force when you bite down.
2 – Grinding your teeth. As you grind, you wear away tooth structure and your teeth get shorter, which causes your whole face to get shorter!
3 – Getting cavities. Cavities also eat away tooth structure and can cause your bite to collapse.
4 – Having Your Teeth Drift. This goes hand-in-hand with losing teeth. Sometimes when you lose teeth, the neighboring teeth will drift into the empty spot (this is why spacers are important in kids!) As the teeth drift, the top teeth and bottom teeth don’t come together like they used to, which can cause you to have a deeper bite and a shorter face.
As you can see from what I’ve written above, the main causes of losing facial height are due to preventable dental diseases.
By regularly going to your dentist you can treat cavities so that you don’t lose your teeth and you can also get appliances to help you stop grinding your teeth so that you don’t grind them away.
Do you have any questions or comments about this article? I’d love to hear them in the comments section below – Thanks for reading!
FYI – This was supposed to be yesterday’s article, but my hard drive crashed Thursday night, I got a replacement yesterday at Best Buy and now I’m up and running again!