I was amused by a story presented on NPR about how plastic surgeons were just discovering that part of the reason our faces sag as we age is because the bones of our face, particularly the jawbone and eye sockets, deteriorate over time. If you understand how bones change as we age, this is obvious! Our skulls and facial bones aren’t immune to the factors that cause us to lose bone in our arms, legs, hips, and so forth — so if you’re losing bone in any of those places, you’re losing bone in your face, too. Overall, taking the steps to stop bone loss are not as hard as some may believe.
David Hunt, the physical anthropologist at the Smithsonian who was consulted for the story, made the point that the most important thing you can do to keep your face youthful was to take care of your teeth. Well, he’s partly right. Teeth are the “canary in the coal mine” for bone loss, and if you’ve had trouble with receding gums or lost or broken teeth, chances are pretty good you’re losing bone. But taking care of your teeth alone isn’t going to do it; you have to also take care of your jaw and the rest of your facial bones if you want to avoid sagging skin on your face.
So I say, instead of singling out the teeth for attention, why not pay attention to all your bones’ health? After all, if you stop bone loss and start maintaining bone health in the rest of your body, your facial bones will respond too. You’ll not only feel stronger and healthier, but the bones of your face will show less structural decline, which means you’ll retain a more youthful appearance. And it’s a whole lot cheaper than Botox or plastic surgery, too!
Shaw, Robert B. Jr; Katzel, Evan B.; Koltz, Peter F.; Kahn, David M.; Girotto, John A.; Langstein, Howard N. Aging of the Mandible and Its Aesthetic Implications. Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery: January 2010 – Volume 125 – Issue 1 – pp 332-342. doi: 10.1097/PRS.0b013e3181c2a685
I’m Dr. Susan Brown. I am a nutritionist, medical anthropologist, writer, and speaker. Get my free weekly newsletter here.