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your look ● the smile dr By Dr. Mark Falco A Smile Never Lies You might not actually know that you’re suffering from a nutritional deficiency, but a simple dental exam can reveal plenty G enetics influence a child’s growth and develop- ment through interpretation of a parent’s DNA. Did you know that the environment we live in has a tremendous amount of influence on a child’s growth as well? When developmental problems occur during a child’s growth years, six major fac- tors could have contributed to them. These are: 1) nutri- tional deficiencies, 2) maternal substance abuse, 3) disease, 4) injury, 5) inadequate learning opportunities and 6) poor socioeconomic status and living conditions. Of these factors, nutritional deficiencies have been the hardest to determine as a contributing factor, because there are so many variables to any given condition, and only the most severe deficiencies are detected early for treatment. But nutritional deficiencies can eventually lead to diabetes, heart disease, asthma and even cancer, albeit slowly over a long period of time. There are so many variables because there are only guidelines that exist for proper nutrition, but not one of us is totally aware of what each of our body’s need for optimum growth and development. Our bodies take what they are given to eat and drink then manufac- tures whatever it needs by whatever means possible. That’s good, but not efficient. YOUR TEETH TELL ALL Nutritional deficiency signs can be discovered through a routine dental exam on a child. Dentists are not equipped to treat these deficiencies, but we can aid in prevention and, whenever possible, correct abnormalities that are indirectly related to these deficiencies. Abnormalities due to nutri- tional deficiencies in the mouth include dental cavities, swollen and bleeding gums, and crooked teeth. One of the most significant body needs is oxygen. We don’t think of it as a nutrient, but when we speak of nutri- 114 PAGEANTRY ent utilization by our bodies, adequate oxygen levels are necessary to carry out these functions at the highest level. If we don’t maintain good oxygen levels in our blood, we run the risk of losing nutrients out of our body premature- ly. We can lose normal oxygen levels for brief moments at a time, extended periods at a time, or most all of the time. Other than from a genetic trait, the condition of the body during an illness, injury, disease, or other manifesta- tion can determine if appropriate levels of oxygen in our blood are maintained briefly, for extended periods of time, or most all of the time. The more we can keep levels at their optimum, the more we can grow and develop normally with the proper nutrition. Oxygen acts like fuel to create the en- ergy to run all the body’s systems. Secondly, and again not defined as a nutrient, adequate amounts of water are needed to move nutrients and their byproducts through the chain of body functions. We get thirsty because our body warns us of losing too much water. We need water to balance the body’s equilibrium. When not in equilibrium, the body reverts to sickness mode. The sickness can be brief, extended or most all of the time. The proper balance created by water aids in our recovery from sickness, but also in the prevention of sickness. Water acts like a lubricant to create the normal functioning of the parts needed to run our body’s systems. TAKING YOUR VITAMINS SERIOUSLY Our bodies rely on vitamins and minerals for proper nu- trition. A vitamin is an organic compound found in plants and animals required for normal growth and nutrition in small quantities that cannot be manufactured within our bodies. A mineral is an inorganic compound required for