Can we be well fed, but malnourished? The teeth tell the tale.

I am delighted that Jenny McGruther has invited me as a guest blogger for Nourished Kitchen!  My name is Sandrine Hahn and I founded and lead Nourishing Our Children, an educational initiative of the San Francisco Chapter of the Weston A Price Foundation.  On the home page of our website, we pose the question, “Can we be well fed but malnourished?” Let’s explore the answer!

Father and daughter.  What do you notice about their faces from one generation to the next? Similar eyes, noses, smiles … however, daughter’s face is significantly more narrow. Why? Do you think it is because mother may have a more narrow face and her daughter inherited that trait? Perhaps … but, before we draw that conclusion, let’s consider the following:

Pictured above are a variety of different dental issues that we as a society have come to accept as normal or due to heredity. However, Dr. Weston A Price’s research indicates that these conditions are in fact not genetic but, rather, caused by a lack of vital nutrients during the formative period of the body. Dr. Price, a prominent Cleveland dentist practicing in the 1920′s, 30′s and 40′s, embarked on a series of travels to remote parts of the world in 1931 which culminated in his first publication of Nutrition and Physical Degeneration in 1939.

He discovered time and again that when the “displacing foods of modern commerce” were introduced into a healthy population group that there was a corresponding impact on their teeth. At the time, the list of such man-made items coming into the outposts during Dr. Price’s day was relatively short: refined sugar, white flour, vegetable oils (primarily cottonseed oil), canned fruits and vegetables and canned and condensed milk. When people started to consume foods made with these items, he documented an increase in dental carries or cavities in that generation. The next generation developed a more narrow face, with corresponding dental deformities or crooked teeth. Please learn more about Dr. Price’s research in a preview of our presentation. (Edit by Jenny: Nourishing Our Children has generously provided Nourished Kitchen readers with a special, discounted donation on their presentation materials of 50%.  Check it out here – it’s worth it.)


While dentists today do correlate cavities to nutrition, their focus tends to be on sugar and other refined carbohydrates. The typical solution for decay is to fill the cavities, encourage the patients to increase their level of dental hygiene while decreasing their consumption of sweets. According to Price, when given enough specific nutrients, the body will re-mineralize the tooth naturally so that no decay arises. The body can also repair damage that has already occurred. Otherwise we are faced with choosing amongst a short list of dental materials to put in our mouths and the mouths of our developing children, all of which are toxic to a certain degree.

Dental Deformities

Dentists by and large don’t correlate deformities, such as crowding or overbites, to nutrition. As Dr. Suzan Hahn, a San Francisco dentist, explains:

When the jaw bone has enough nutrient density during development, it forms as a wide flat plane and all 32 teeth can come in unobstructed. When nutrients are lacking during the formative period, the bone bows and then the teeth come in crowded, crooked, with under bites, over bites or spaces.

As an aside, the same thing happens with the pelvis. When the diet is poor during the formative period, the pelvic opening will be oval rather than round, creating the possibility of birthing problems. The common solution to dental deformities is to cosmetically straighten teeth with braces. However, even with orthodontics, there is a limit to the structural corrections that can be made.


What’s wrong with having crooked teeth? Can’t we just straighten them with braces?

While we can create a beautiful-looking smile, braces do not address the underlying cause of crowded teeth, which is a lack of proper nutrition. One may have corrected straight teeth, but one could still be permanently left with:

  • Narrow Nasal Passages
  • Constricted Ear Canal
  • Constricted Glands in the Head
  • Reduced Surface Area in the Lungs
  • Digestive Disorders
  • Bone Problems
  • and a Narrow or flattened Pelvis

The teeth tell the tale!

Pictured above are naturally straight teeth. As Sally Fallon Morell, President of The Weston A. Price Foundation and author of Nourishing Traditions, explains in her PowerPoint on Traditional Diets:

When the teeth are straight, it‚ a sign that the rest of the body was properly constructed, with good bone structure, good musculature, keen eyesight and hearing, optimal function of all the organs, optimistic attitude and a well functioning mind. And when the teeth are straight and the facial structure broad, the pelvic opening is round, allowing for easy childbirth. But when the teeth are crooked, it is a sign that there will be compromises in the rest of the body as well. When the face is narrow and the teeth crowded, there is less room for the important glands in the head‚ the pituitary, the pineal and the hypothalamus, the master gland. The hypothalamus is the seat of impulse control‚ and what is the defining characteristic of our young people today? Lack of impulse control!

When the teeth are crowded, the nasal passages are likely more narrow so there‚ more susceptibility to infection. The ear tubes are more narrow so problems in this area are more likely. Crooked teeth often goes with poor posture and underdeveloped muscles. The plumbing and the wiring of the body-house will be compromised as well. There will be less surface area in the lungs, fewer cells in the kidneys. The security system of your house‚your immune system‚will not be able to keep out all intruders. In addition to physical problems caused by poor diet, mental and emotional problems also appear. We actually have receptors for feel-good chemicals in our brains and these receptors can‚ work without the nutrients found in foods like seafood, animal fats and organ meats.

Finally, when the face is narrow, the pelvic opening is oval and childbirth becomes much more difficult, even life threatening. We should not blame the doctors for all the C-Section births they are doing today‚ these operations are necessary because otherwise the babies cannot get through the narrow opening of the pelvis.”

Once a child’s body has been formed, we can’t correct the narrow bone structure, although with good nutrition, it is still possible to be healthy. However, we can correct the bone structure in the next generation with good nutrition before conception and during pregnancy and growth. See our recommended diet for pregnant and nursing mothers and overall dietary recommendations.

Facial Structure

This photograph illustrates perfectly the difference between normal and compromised facial structure. These two men belong to the same tribe and have the same genetics, but the young man on the right has excellent facial structure, a very broad face, while the young man on the left shows the elongation of the face and the narrowing of the palate that comes with the introduction of modern foods. His body has done the best it could with the materials available, but did not have the nutrients needed to build the strong bones that are required for wide dental arches. While the boy on the right has a bone structure that supports the entire face, it looks as though the face of the boy on the left is actually hanging from the skull.

The photo above is reproduced by permission with the Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation who holds the copyright. Please do not use the photo without their express written consent.

Pottenger’s Cats

Like Price, Dr. Frances Pottenger was a researcher. His studies revealed that predictable changes in health can occur when you change the diet. In his study, cats that were fed a diet of raw meat, raw milk and cod liver oil lived generation after generation in good health. When the raw food was replaced by pasteurized milk and partially cooked meat, allergies and skeletal deformities occurred in the first generation. The offspring of these poorly fed cats developed glandular problems – thyroid, adrenal and pancreatic. The next generation experienced a whole host of degenerative diseases, and the fourth generation exhibited mental disorders and was infertile, meaning they did not reproduce. The implication for humans? Not that humans should eat only raw foods – humans are not cats. But, rather when the human diet produces “facial deformities,” as we are seeing these days, extinction will occur if that diet is followed for several generations.


So back to our question – Can we be well fed but malnourished?

In a word – Yes. Yes, we can. It is possible to be malnourished even when we have plenty to eat. The very narrow arch behind the palatal expander captured above is indicative of what Dr. Price referred to as physical degeneration.

As has been previously mentioned … it is not just the teeth and the shape of the face that are impacted by poor nutrition! Knowing that there are key nutrients needed for brain development, we can infer that without them, full development may be delayed, interrupted or never realized. Key nutrients include Vitamins A and D, Choline, DHA, Zinc, Tryptophan and Cholesterol. Most of them are found in the following foods: cod liver oil, and the liver, butter and egg yolks from grass-fed animals, while some are found in seafood and the meat of grass-fed animals.

How many of us routinely consume these foods or feed them to our children? My hope is that more and more do – which is why I established this educational initiative! Read more: and view the related section in our presentation here:
If you’d like to learn more about how to nourish, rather than merely fed your children, please take advantage of this opportunity to receive our educational materials, many of which are on sale for up to 60% off in celebration of Nourishing Our Children’s 8th Anniversary.

What if you eat right and your children’s teeth are still crooked?

As an end note – in response to this information, some have expressed to me that they have fed their children a nutrient dense diet, yet their teeth are still crooked.  Possible reasons: parents didn’t start eating a nutrient dense diet well before the child was conceived in order to build their own nutritional reserves, their diet wasn’t as nutrient dense as they thought, they didn’t allow for enough spacing between children to recuperate their nutritional reserves (3 years is recommended), there is a malabsorption issue caused by a compromised gut (see GAPS diet for help), and/or it may take more than one generation to reverse the trend of physical degeneration that results in crooked teeth.

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What people are saying

  1. Nick says

    The reason a good diet won’t always produce straight teeth is because mouth breathing sets up the muscles of the face to produce narrow arches, high palates that intrude on the nasal passages. The tongue rests on the mandible when it is supposed to rest on the maxillary arch. Without the tongue, the facial muscles narrow the arch and crowd teeth. Good nutrition is essential but some kids have various reasons beyond nutrition that obstruct nasal airway. Please let the readers know. Thanks

  2. says

    Very good. I have some knowledge of dentristy, I want to study that, and I agree with everything.

    I have met some children who were grown up in a Spanish traditional nutrient dense diet (without raw milk, because here that’s illegal, and the few people who can get it, always boil it, because they are scared of Malta fever and other deseases atributed to raw milk. That’s a sign of desinformation, but well… ). They ate plenty of internal organs (liver, specially), nuts, seafood, veggies and fruit. They are absolutely healthy, with no allergies or chronic deseases, with big, white, straight teeth with no cavities, and a wide cute face, with high cheeks.

    When my mother was pregnant of me, and I was little, we both followed a diet with more nutrient density than most of the people, but that was, still, not enough. I didn’t need braces, or had any cavity, but I have some crooked teeth, and I don’t know if I am going to have enough room for my wisdom teeth…

    Now, that I am a vegetarian, and WAPF sympathizer, I try to follow a diet with a lot of natural eggs, Roquefort cheese (it’s the only raw milk product I can get. I live in the driest place in Europe), nuts, vegetables and fruit. It’s already too late for my teeth, but I wish I can stay healthy in order respects…

    • says

      My sister didn’t like to eat her meat and I always ate it. My mother gave us liver about once a week. She was from the old school and mothers don’t do this anymore. I developed a broad face and high cheekbones. My sister is taller and a year older, but she has low cheekbones and a more narrow face, which many people think is more attractive in their misinformed way of watching Hollywood models. I also got the boobs (from mom and the Italian side of sperm doner dad) and she didn’t. And she should have because the genes are there. Skinny sister has been on the low fat diet many years and developed “marionette lines” on her mouth at age 25. At 50, I still don’t have them. We have similar complexion and eye and hair color (from sperm doner dad).

  3. K says

    I second what Nick said. A major cause of narrow faces/crowding is MOUTH BREATHING! Allergies (possibly gut related) cause swelling of the nasal passages and force kids to breathe through their mouths. No amount of WAP nutrition will grow a wide face if you mouth breathe! Improper oral posture collapses the face and dental arches inward. CRUCIAL point.

    Please google “BIOBLOC ORTHOTROPICS”.

    • Megan says

      The point is, poor nutrition can lead to the development of allergies, which can lead to mouth breathing, which is then linked to poor facial bone development. Whether we like it or not, a lot of the organisations and business that form the backbone (mind the pun) of western society were invented in response to the huge amount of physical illness and deformity brought on by the introduction of high quantities of sugar and grains in the diet. Physical deformity / lack of basic nutritional health means we go to the dentist, we dye our hair, we whiten our teeth, fake tan our skin, go to the gym for hours and hours every week just to build some muscle, moisturise our skin, take pills to make our brains happy… So many things! Just so that we look and feel a bit healthier! All of these can be corrected through diet but if everyone knew that, companies offering these services would go out of business and so would the people selling us sugars and grains.

  4. TL says

    I may be wrong but I didn’t see anything in this article about thumb-sucking or other oral habits. Thumb-sucking is a huge factor in narrow arches and high palates.

    And a clarification…demineralized teeth can be reversed but huge cavities cannot. Demineralization being reversed is well known in the field of dentistry…I was taught that 20 years ago when I became a dental hygienist. In fact, when a cavity is small and only within the enamel, we leave it alone, typically, and inform the individual that their diet and oral hygiene habits will determine what happens next. And by their next visit, the demineralization has either become a full-on cavity or it has hardened.Remineralization does not occur via the something within the tooth itself such as “glands” which was the notion during Weston Price’s time as a dentist. But rather through good immunity in the body, certain cells in the saliva bathe over the teeth and help to remineralize the tooth. And dentists nowadays are well aware of repairative or secondary dentin that forms over the pulp. the notion that ALL decay can be reversed is completely unproven and uses very old science to back it up.
    Weston Price was certainly on to something when he looked at nutrition in relation to dental decay but he didn’t have the microscopes of today where we can see what the over 300 different species of bacteria in our mouths can accomplish. Nutrition plays the biggest role in the immunity of the host. Weston Price, due to the lack of technology of his time, was unable to see the whole picture.

    • judy says

      I really appreciate this comment.

      Another thing the author completely failed to mention was infant feeding options. Brian Palmer has well documented evidence for bottle feeding, regardless of the bottle’s contents, causing a high palate and many other dental problems.

  5. Lisa says

    I have two children, and their teeth and face shapes are very different. I believe it’s because of my diet. When I was pregnant with my three-year-old, I ate a standard diet: lots of sugar and refined carbohydrates, fast food, and pretty much anything else I craved. He has a narrow face and a prominent overbite. During my second pregnancy, I ate a much better diet, though still not what I would call traditional: lots of fruits and veggies, very little processed food, full-fat dairy, the occasional sweet treat. My one-year-old’s face is much rounder, and though her teeth are still coming in, she doesn’t have any sign of an overbite or underbite. I am early in my third pregnancy, and in the year since my daughter was born, I have followed more of a WAP diet: fermented foods, soaked grains, very little processed food, cod liver oil, lots of healthy fats like butter and coconut oil, in addition to adding things like probiotics and magnesium supplementation to my daily routine. I am interested to see what baby #3 looks like, but at this point, I’m convinced prenatal dietary habits have an impact on dental health and face shape because I can see it in my kids.

  6. Victoria says

    The problem today in dentistry is that even though many dentists can see the whole picture, unlike Price, they do not bother to educate their patients properly. What is the point in seeing the whole picture and knowing so much when you do nothing to educate people? People are more ignorant than ever before about good nutrition and their teeth.

    • Don says

      Because people don’t want to hear it. They want to be done with the appointment and are already thinking about the next thing to do on their schedule.
      Nobody wants to hear about soaking grains or eating liver.
      Kind of like fat people don’t want to hear from their doctors that they need to lose weight!

      In this time and age, people are too busy to make a living, running to their jobs, paying bills, worrying about next week or some summer vacation or what they’ll buy for Christmas this year.
      Most people with major dental problems are eating a poor diet because they are living in a part of town that doesn’t offer healthy foods at all. Or are living in poverty.

      People go to dentists to make all their problems go away with a filling or a tooth pulled, not to get some lecture about diet. Most don’t even know what the word carbohydrates means, might as well be speaking chinese.

      And for those with money that still suffer from dental decay and other problems, I have no sympathy for them, the information is out there. It should not be up to a dentist to tell people how to be healthy. This should be something us everyday folks should talk about and spread the word!

  7. sara r. says

    Although I appreciate all of the work that Sally Fallon Morell has done with the WAPF, I heartily disagree with her statement about c-sections. It is absolutely not true that the high c-section rate is justifiable due to malnourishment. Women who plan to give birth at a birth center have on average a 6% chance of a csection, where women planning a hospital birth have a 25% chance if they are low-risk and a first-time mom. These numbers have nothing to do with bone structure and everything to do with our negative, risk-averse culture surrounding birth. I recently was doula for a women with a very narrow palate. She had obviously had teeth removed for braces and they were still crooked. As a WAP beleiver, this worried me somewhat. Guess what? She pushed her baby out in less than an hour, which is pretty good for a first baby, in the hospital on your back.
    Otherwise I agree and I am sad that I accidentally became pregnant with my son earlier than I had planned. Sure enough his palate is much narrower than my firstborn and he had a tongue and lip tie which have been revised. Time will tell how much of these issues can be helped by a nutrient-dense diet now, and breastfeeding.

    • nicole says

      Sara i agree but it is probably that 6% rather than the nearly 50% of c-sections we currently have here that are due to pelvic narrowing and physical degeneration. Also i have seen babies with a deformity that is probably nutritional and that is a really big head. mostly in the frontal/ parietal region.

  8. Lisa Truitt says

    Wow! Striking photos. I am not as bad off as many in terms of underdeveloped arches and crooked teeth. I have a well proportioned head and good cheek bones. My jaw is about the same width as my forehead. But I can see how my jaw narrows toward my chin, toward the front, so that there is not enough space between my bottom two eye teeth and the teeth between them are crooked. The top teeth are pretty straight but not totally perfect. The teeth between my top two front teeth and the two top canines are set back just a little so that the two front ones and the canines stick out forward a tad more.

    My mom had terribly crooked teeth so her mothers prenatal nutrition must have been abyssmal. My first two children have teeth straighter even than mine. I was pretty consciensous about keeping junk out of the house and feeding them quality foods including butter, dairy, eggs, meats, freshly ground and fermented breads, etc. but my third sons are a little more crooked. I think by this time I needed more of a boost to my nutrition than I realized. Also they were less than two years apart.

  9. says

    This is the best article I’ve read in a long while, if not ever! I wish every single person on Earth could read this, especially motners-to-be. I have quite a narrow jaw, and when my wisdom teeth started growing, they pushed the two front teeth kind of on top of each other. I had it fixed with veneers but problems with teeth remain – lots of cavities all my life and gum recession. My mum certainly had a terrible diet when she was pregnant with me and I wasn’t fed well either when I was growing up. We ate a lot of grains, flour, potatoes, sweets, and almost no vegetables, healthy fats, meat or fish. In those days, every body was talking about how animal products cause cancer, heart disease etc. Right now I’m following the Paleo diet (have been for around 8 months now) – I really hope it will help remineralize my teeth. I have a couple of cavities that my dentist agreed to leave for now – he gave me one year to try and remineralize them by myself. Wish me luck!

  10. Emma says

    I was born via C-section for a reason unknown to me, but I developed a very large mouth, wide jaw, and full lips. My teeth are perfectly straight and I’ve had few cavities, which I didn’t develop until adulthood and were likely caused by poor habits. This article is interesting because my teeth are very different from my mothers– hers are perfectly straight, but very small. Mine are long and broad like my fathers’, but his are extremely crooked and he’s had a lot of dental problems. Nobody in either side of my family has lips like mine. I’ve always figured it was some sort of mutation, but perhaps it was influenced by prenatal nutrition. My mother has said that she ate an unusual amount of pickled herring and cabbage during her pregnancy. Aside from that, she generally prepares traditional, but balanced meals with a healthy dose of meat, butter, and fat. Not low-fat eating, but good portion control and balanced with raw veggies and nuts. She never was one for fast food and I had my first McDonalds meal at the age of 10. Previously I’d go for a McFlurry and a toy (my babysitter worked there and would give one to me without a Happy Meal). It’s a shame that my mother left without teaching me how to cook. Now I cannot seem to motivate myself to live healthily, but I’m happy I got the foundation to be healthy and resilient as I progress into adulthood.

  11. Cookie says

    I’m about halfway through Dr. Pottenger’s book. He says that cats fed cooked meat did not survive beyond 3 generations. What about cats fed on kibble? They have not died out.

    • Lydia Bishop says

      Modern cat food incorporates the aminos that caused the high mortality rates in Pottenger’s Cats.

  12. Rebecca says

    I can say I have been through it all! Teeth pulled in childhood….no mention by the dr that I was a mouth breather….had large tonsils…had a skeletal deformity. Well into my adult life after years of health issues had orthognathic surgery…then a repeat of that surgery with total join replacement…after having upper bicuspid space re opened…
    Had tonsils out after that…sinus surgery et et. braces 3 times as adult twice as child. Still in braces…still have breathing and palate issues ( despite it was expanded). I dont mouth breathe anty more only after having surgeries….tonsils our…sinus surg. Et..
    I WIill SAY TO ALL OF YOU!!!!!!!!!! I HAVE CONCLUDED….YES I WAS. MOUTH BREATHER….but I have concluded as this article most of the issues for me were present at birth! Probably from combination of poor nutrition and genetics during conception. i feel it is the poor development which then causes the narrow growth…then the ear infections…tonsil and adenoid issues et. In other words if your jaws are too narrow to begin with..or the maxilla abnormal and shaped too small you are going to mouth breathe….then automatically all the other things will occur

    My orthodontist ….all I heard about after the joint surgery was mouth breathing and tongue thrusting…despite I had large obstructive well as a sinus thickening we didn’t know about. All I knew is despite his treatment and the surgery I was still mouth breathing espec at night. Until we addressed the sinus and tonsil isdues …no amount of myofunctional treatment would have helped….

    I am tired of people harping about mouth breathers….when the other issues…the poor foundation at birth…the narrow development …causing the mouth breathing is the real issue.

    Normally developed and nutritionally sound individuals from birth…don’t mouth breathe…
    There may be some healthy individuals who develop mouth breathing …but I seriously doubt that in many of these cases…it was mouth breathing.

    It was instead the poor foundation .and nutrition in utero and in childhood..causing mouth breathing..then causing all the other issues.

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