Do teeth move as you age?

November 03, 2021

Do teeth move as you age?
Do teeth move as you age?

Adult teeth are considered permanent, but that does not mean they avoid change as the years pass. Teeth will naturally move and shift throughout the course of a lifetime. And even if a patient has had orthodontic treatment in the past, that does not guarantee flawless alignment without a proper way to maintain the results. Here are some of the reasons why teeth shift and what patients can do to help prevent it.


What causes teeth to shift?

Here are different reasons teeth will move and shift as you age:


Growth of the lower jaw

Believe it or not, the lower jaw continues to grow throughout life. The forward growth is small and slow but often results in the lower teeth bumping into the upper teeth. This can cause the upper front teeth to spread out or the lower front teeth to move closer. The lower jaw also shrinks in width over time, causing even more crowding.


Tooth loss

If a permanent tooth is lost or removed, it can have a significant impact on the remaining teeth. Most likely, teeth will shift to fill the gaps of the lost teeth. This can lead to issues with both beauty and functionality.


Teeth grinding

Habitual teeth grinding, also known as bruxism, can also cause the teeth to shift. The back molars often take the brunt of the pressure. This destructive process often results in shorter teeth, bite changes and facial changes. It can also start to shift and push other teeth out of place.


Impact or injury to face or mouth

Impact or injury to the face or mouth can knock a tooth loose or even knock a tooth out. This is why it is critical to wear proper safety gear and a mouth guard for certain sports and activities.


Periodontal disease or tooth decay

Periodontal disease is the inflammation and infection of the soft tissues surrounding teeth, especially along the gum line. This infection can result in the gum line receding and bone loss. This means less support for the teeth, and shifting is a common consequence.


Orthodontic treatment or adjustment

Teeth shift in response to gentle, sustained pressure over time. Patients who have had braces or other orthodontic treatment will experience teeth shifting to correct the alignment of the teeth. This means teeth are moved from a natural position. But once the braces or alignment trays are no longer in use, the teeth may start to shift back to their original positions. This is why it is so important to follow aftercare instructions and use the proper appliances to keep teeth in place.


What is the treatment for teeth shifting?

Orthodontics is the branch of dentistry concerned with the proper occlusion and alignment of teeth. Malocclusion, or the misalignment of teeth, can cause overcrowding which often leads to dental decay and periodontal infections. An orthodontist uses braces, aligners, or similar appliances to straighten teeth, moving them to an optimal position. They can also recommend long-term appliances that will hold teeth in place and help prevent shifting.


What other things can help prevent teeth shifting?

There are several other things patients can do to prevent teeth from shifting. These include:


Practice oral hygiene

Good oral health will help keep the soft tissues of the mouth healthy and strong. In turn, this helps improve the strength of the bones and other structures keeping teeth anchored in place.


Schedule regular checkups and cleanings

Ideally, patients should visit the dentist every six months. This is the best way to stay ahead of potential problems. And if a patient needs to have a tooth extracted, it is important to fill the space with a bridge or implant to help maintain healthy teeth and occlusion.


Stop grinding teeth

Bruxism often stems from stress or malocclusion. But this habitual grinding at night or during the day shifts teeth out of alignment. Patients can ask the dentist for a nightguard to wear that will help prevent damage to the teeth. But it would also be wise to find ways to limit stress and make a conscious effort to avoid grinding the teeth.


Improve sleep habits

Because teeth shift due to sustained pressure over time, sleeping on the stomach with the face pressed into a firm pillow can lead to tooth movement. From a dental perspective, it is better to sleep on the back or on the side to help prevent teeth from shifting.


Wear a retainer

Really, the most important part of braces or aligners actually comes after treatment. It is vital to wear a retainer or similar appliance to help keep teeth in proper alignment. It will limit the amount of unwanted pressure on the teeth and reduce the risk of teeth shifting.


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