Homo sapiens have developed with certain competencies. When the environment changes, certain stressors are created. This challenges human physiology. Then, physiology has no choice but to react to those compensations. Unfortunately, many of the compensations have secondary compromises. There is a vicious circle that can happen due to the compromises that occur. They create additional stressors.
Competencies and stressors were among the topics Dana Point dentist Dr. Mark A. Cruz and Dr. Barry Raphael, orthodontist from New Jersey, addressed at the Airway Focused Dentistry Mini-Residency. Dr. Raphael highlighted how major environmental factors have placed a significant amount of pressure on humans. Millions of years ago, the Ice Age played a major role in the Homo sapiens' need to stand up and walk. Ten to 14,000 years ago, changes in agriculture affected what humans ate. Humans have suffered from a number of infectious diseases that Paleo Man never had to face.
Many of the major catastrophes in modern history are related to infectious diseases. Yellow fever, small pox, malaria, tuberculosis, and the Black plague have become major events in history. The industrial revolution has helped humans conquer the issue of infectious diseases; however, there has been an increase of non-communicable chronic diseases.
In addition to these stressors, Dr. Raphael highlighted three types of stress – functional, ingestional, and emotional. He explained functional stress as the "things we do… the way we sit. It's the way we work. It's the way we hunch over our computers and our laptops. It's when we exercise or don't exercise. It's the way we use machines or don't use machines to do what we need to do."
Ingestional stress includes the things that we contact due to the modern environment. This includes what humans eat, even when it is no longer classified as food. For example, the body does not recognize anything developed from petroleum products as food. The body has to figure out what to do with antibiotics and GMO equivalents in the food source. Other examples of things we contact are lotions and fragrant sprays. The emotional stress humans face includes bills that have to be paid, jobs, school grades, relationships, and certain parenting situations.
The world is quite different in comparison to the one in which the human body first developed, Dr. Raphael said.
Author Daniel Lieberman said, "the most basic interactions between culture and your body's biology are the ways that learned behaviors … alter your body's environment."
Dr. Raphael then asked, "Are we developing the way our genes program us to be?"
He replied, "Probably not."
Dr. Raphael highlighted the non-communicable diseases that are addressed in medicine and dentistry. For example, neurocognitive problems are occurring at younger ages at a greater frequency and intensity. Others include caries, malocclusion, and sleep apnea.
"That's why I got into this as an orthodontist, and I think most of us in dentistry want to deal with these particular things," Dr. Raphael said. "We realize that it is important that we look at the root causes, that we try to identify the parts of our environment, the specific types of stress that are creating these issues in order to not have to pass them along to yet another generation."