Why are my Teeth Shifting?


While it may not be obvious, it is normal for the teeth to move. This is even true for patients who have had dental work such as braces. Throughout a patient’s life, their teeth slowly shift over time.


The following can cause gradual movement and shifting of the teeth:

  1. Change in shape of the jaw with age
  2. Pressures from routine use
  3. Teeth returning to their natural positions following orthodontic treatments
  4. Gum disease, grinding of the teeth or other health issues


Fortunately, there are things patients can do maintain healthy alignment of their teeth. The following article will review reasons why the teeth can shift and discuss how to minimize or treat this movement when it occurs.


Orthodontic Procedures & Shifting Teeth

During orthodontic procedures such as braces, which are used to correct the alignment of the teeth, the teeth are moved out of their natural positions. The orthodontic procedure slowly shifts the teeth into the desired location.


Upon completion of the treatment, the orthodontic will remove the braces. Another popular treatment is Invisalign, which involves wearing alignment trays. Once these treatments are complete, the teeth can start to naturally shift back to their original position. While some patients experience little to no movement, other patients may experience significant shifting after treatment.


The orthodontic may use a fixed or lingual retainer. This type of retainer is permanently bonded to the teeth after treatment. While patients with these types of retainers can still be at risk for movement, tooth shifting typically occurs as the result of a broken or damaged retainer.


The teeth can also shift after braces because of poor gum or jawbone health. Patients can also experience bone loss from gum disease or another health issue, increasing their risk for movement of the teeth.


Teeth Shifting and Tooth Removal

Patients who have had a tooth removed may begin to notice that the adjacent teeth can start to shift into the open space. In cases where the wisdom teeth are removed, it may not result in any issues or movement. Patients rarely experience issues with shifting after having their rear molars or wisdom teeth extracted. When a canine tooth or incisor is removed, there is a greater risk for movement as the teeth next to the new space can begin to shift into the opening. In order to avoid shifting teeth after an extraction, patients should work with a dental professional to replace missing teeth as soon as possible. Dental implants, bridges, and partial dentures can be excellent tooth-replacement solutions.


The teeth experience a great deal of pressure throughout the day from routine tasks such as speaking and eating. When patients speak, they push their tongue against the teeth to create certain sounds. Even smiling, sneezing, and coughing can cause movement of the mouth and facial muscles, placing pressure on the teeth. These relatively minor things can cause slow changes to the alignment of the teeth and eventually require orthodontic treatment such as braces.


It is normal for the teeth to shift as a patient ages and following certain dental procedures. Over time, this can result in subtle, unnoticeable changes or significant movement. When the shifting is obvious, treatment is often necessary. A retainer can often be used following braces or Invisalign to reduce the amount of shifting that takes place. It is also critical for patients to have good oral hygiene practices with daily brushing, flossing, and routine visits to the dentist. Regular visits to the dentist can help ensure any changes are addressed in a timely manner. This helps prevent costly and invasive treatments in the future.

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