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  • Megan Cottrell

Straight Teeth Without Braces: How Craniosacral Therapy Can Bring the Mouth and Teeth into Alignment



“Did you get braces? Your teeth look perfect!”


It was an unexpected moment at the dentist, but a triumph for 12 year-old Ruby, who three years earlier had been told she would definitely need a palate expander and braces for her high palate. Ruby really didn’t want to get braces, and her mom really didn’t want to pay for them! So they decided to try a novel approach — work with their trusted craniosacral therapist at The Craniosacral Center of Grand Rapids to see if this gentle therapy could help create the space needed in Ruby’s mouth for her teeth to naturally straighten.


It might seem like an unusual application of craniosacral therapy, but read on to learn about the connection between the balance in our pelvis, spine and cranial bones and tissues and proper spacing and alignment of the teeth.


Common Reasons for Needing Braces and Orthodontics


One of the most common reasons that dentists recommend orthodontic treatment to children is lack of space in the mouth for the growing teeth. With teeth already tightly spaced together and larger adult teeth still on the way, it’s clear that teeth are going to have to rotate and twist to all fit inside. Think of a crowded elevator where you have to twist to the side or be pressed up against another person in order to ride versus an elevator with enough space for everyone to stand comfortably.


There are lots of reasons that this kind of crowding can happen. Many are genetic. In addition, in our modern world, we often don’t do the intense kinds of jaw exercises that our ancestors used to — chewing raw vegetables and tough meat cooked on a fire. That’s led to our jaws becoming smaller over time. While orthodontists used to just focus on straightening the teeth with braces and wires, often now treatment includes palatal expanders to allow for enough room for the teeth to sit comfortably.


At the heart of craniosacral therapy is the premise that the body wants to heal itself and be in balance, but often just needs support in doing so. While genetics and environment can play a factor, imbalances in both the muscular and skeletal systems can also affect the alignment and crowding of the teeth. When we address misaligned parts of the skeletal system or help unwind the tension in muscles and tissues, we can allow the body to create that needed space in the mouth on its own and give teeth the room they need to sit as intended.


The Pelvis and the Cranium: Mirrored and Connected


While the skeletal and muscular systems have different and distinct parts, they are all connected and linked so that a dysfunction or misalignment in one can affect many other parts, even those that don’t seem closely linked.


If you take a look at the human pelvis, it has a butterfly-like shape. Of course, when you look at the skull initially, you might think it looks nothing like the pelvis, but look closer… among the cranial bones, the sphenoid bone is also a butterfly-shaped bone that sits behind the eyes, nose and upper jaw. The sphenoid sits directly against the occipital bone, which connects to the pelvis via the spine. Often, when we see a misalignment in the pelvis - one side sitting too high or a rotation, we’ll see that rotation mirrored in the sphenoid bone — the pelvis tilts up to the right, the sphenoid is tilted up to the left. When the sphenoid isn’t sitting properly, it affects its neighbors, the palatal bones, which directly affects how much space there is in the mouth.


At the Craniosacral Center of Grand Rapids, we often work with these palatal bones when treating a baby with a tongue tie. In a tongue tie, an overly tight midline tissue creates a line of tension pulling within the body, like a snag in a silk scarf, keeping it from sitting smoothly. Likewise, muscular tension in the face can also pull the jaw and palatal bones out of place.


Braces work because the wire that the braces attach to has a natural bend to it and wants to return to that shape. Orthodontists take advantage of that wire’s natural shape to allow it to pull on the teeth it’s attached to. However, muscles and tissues also pull on the bones of the jaw and palate. Many parents have been dismayed to pay thousands of dollars for braces, only to have their child’s teeth go right back to the way they were if the child doesn’t wear the retainer. Like the wire that wants to return to its bend, the muscles and tissues of the face also want to return to their usual shape. So by unwinding that tension, the body can find its own way and adjust the teeth naturally and stay that way over the long term.


Working Within the Mouth and Jaw


For a client seeking to improve the alignment of the teeth, we do a lot of work inside the mouth in order to improve oral function overall. Using a gloved hand, the therapist uses gentle pressure inside under the tongue and palatal bones to release any tension or misalignment. Increasing the flexibility and mobility of the tongue helps shape the upper palate. Ideally, the tongue should rest on the upper palate, with the tip of the tongue just behind the teeth. This resting position helps shape the alignment of the palatal bones and the upper teeth. Because of this, the tongue is often referred to as “the architect of the mouth,” when it comes to oral function. By allowing the tongue to rest as it should and widen the upper palate, we allow the mouth to start to shape itself as it was intended to.


Orthodontics and craniosacral therapy can also work in tandem to create better and easier outcomes when it comes to braces, creating shorter treatment times and less discomfort for the person receiving the treatment.


Ruby’s Story: Finding the Teeth’s Natural Alignment


When the dentist recommended that Ruby see an orthodontist because they didn’t think her adult teeth would have enough room to grow in with proper alignment, mom Sarah, who is also a massage therapist, was unsure.


As a holistic wellness practitioner and mother for over 15 years, I knew that “forcing” the body to accommodate, adjust and create space had ripple effects that would negatively affect my child’s personal health foundation,” says Sarah.


Instead, Sarah hoped that working with Kelly would help correct some of the issues noted by the dentist, but in a more gentle way and also benefit her entire body and her connection to her own well being.


Kelly began working with Ruby at age nine, initially with weekly treatments to create some momentum in the movement of her palate and soft tissues. Once those gains were made and the body could maintain them for longer, they were able to space the treatments out to bi-weekly and then monthly. If Ruby was experiencing a period of heightened activity or stress, such as growth spurts, athletics, summer camp, family struggles, etc., they would put in an extra treatment. Ruby continued with monthly treatment until about the age of 12.


Not only did she get the oral outcome she hoped for, but her mom says she has gained awareness of her body, when she is out of balance and needs a CST session or just to stay in for the night.


“She has a beautiful smile, a brighter disposition and strong sense of self, without experiencing unnecessary trauma, that will stay with her as she grows and continues to learn how to support herself and her well-being appropriately,” says Sarah.


One key element to Ruby’s story is her age. Ruby began coming at around age 9 and continued with weekly visits for just over a year. At 9, Ruby was at an optimal age, with enough adult teeth grown in that she could start to shape her adult jaw, but still with flexibility and movement so that changes could be made. Much older or younger, the work may have been more difficult.


Curious about CST and teeth alignment? Book an Intake Session


If you’re wondering if craniosacral therapy could help your child find straight teeth without braces or assist in the process of orthodontic realignment, book an intake session at CSTGR. Our therapists will be honest with you about the tension patterns they feel in the body and what might be out of balance, and in turn, what might be possible if those patterns are corrected.


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