Are your teeth shifting? Does it seem to be getting worse over time? You're not alone! Teeth do certainly shift throughout life. In this journal post we'll explore why this happens and highlight the best ways to keep your teeth straight and smile healthy.
Your mouth (just like the rest of your body) is constantly changing and part of that change involves your teeth. This may seem surprising, especially when you notice for the first time that one or more of your teeth are not where they used to be! Understanding what goes on in your mouth (and face) over the years will help you know what to expect and what to do about it. But before we find out what the causes are, we need to debunk one of the biggest myths in dentistry and orthodontics!
Wisdom teeth have nothing to do with your teeth shifting!
Wisdom teeth (third molars) are the last teeth to grow and often times get impacted due to insufficient space. Many people (including dental professionals) to this day mistakenly believe that the pressure from third molars pushes the rest of the teeth forward causing them to shift. Most research failed to demonstrate an association and more importantly, teeth shift even if wisdom teeth are removed (extracted). For this reason, most orthodontists in the United States do not recommend removal of third molars just to prevent teeth shifting (they should be removed for other reasons however, such as infection, pain, pathology, etc…)
So if it’s not wisdom teeth, why do teeth shift then?! Here are the seven most important reasons your teeth will continue to shift throughout life:
1. Your lower jaw never stops growing!
This is perhaps one of the most surprising reasons, but believe it or not, your lower jaw (mandible) continues to grow forward throughout life. This forward growth, although very slow and small in magnitude, results in your lower front teeth bumping into the upper front teeth from behind causing either your upper front teeth to space out or your lower front teeth to get crowded (crooked). All of this happens of course if no retainers are being used (more on that later). What does this mean for you? If you have (or had) a gap between your upper front teeth, you should expect it to get larger over time and if your lower front teeth are crowded, you should expect the crowding to get worse over time!
2. Your lower jaw width shrinks over time
The lower jaw gets smaller in width over the years especially between the lower canines. This as a result causes your lower front teeth to be more crowded over time as well.
3. Grinding and tooth wear
Grinding (gnashing or clenching) your teeth (bruxism) is a destructive process which causes excessive tooth wear and may also result in damage to tissues surrounding your teeth. The result is shorter teeth, bite changes and in severe cases, facial changes as well.
4. Dental procedures and tooth loss
Teeth also continue to grow throughout life. If one of your teeth is removed, the teeth next to it and opposite to it will shift into the space created. For example, if your lower first molar is removed, your upper first molar may start “dropping” into the space and your lower second molar may start shifting forward.
5. Periodontal disease and bone loss
Periodontal disease refers the inflammation (and infection) of tissues surrounding teeth especially bone and gum tissue. The result is bone loss over teeth which means less support for your teeth. Teeth shifting (and mobility) is a common consequence and often causes gaps (spaces) to open up between your teeth.
Teeth are enveloped by lips and cheeks on the outside and your tongue on the inside. Generally speaking, aging makes lips tighter and this means more pressure on your teeth from the outside. The result? more crowding!
Interestingly, lip aging affects your smile as well, which is why you show less upper front teeth and more lower front teeth when you smile as you get older!
7. Orthodontic treatment
Teeth are most stable where they currently are. Moving teeth orthodontically with braces or Invisalign may place teeth is a less stable position. This is why teeth are more prone to shifting immediately after finishing orthodontic treatment. This is what makes retainers so important!
So you ask yourself, “what can I do to stop my teeth shifting?” We’re glad you asked! Here are a few things you can do!
1. Keep your mouth and teeth healthy
Regular visits to your dentists and getting the treatment(s) recommended is a great start. Maintaining your oral health minimizes the chances of periodontal disease and tooth loss.
2. Address any bite problems or chronic grinding
Grinding your teeth is not a trivial matter and should be addressed promptly. While there may not be a cure but there are certainly ways to protect your teeth from the harmful effects of grinding; for example nightguards are effective in preventing tooth wear.
4. Orthodontic treatment
It is important to understand that an issue with your teeth position will never resolve itself, will never get better and will probably get worse over time.Any amount of dental crowding or spacing that you notice is quite significant and should be addressed as soon as feasible. Adult orthodontics is getting more popular especially with more discreet treatment options such as Invisalign and ceramic braces. Keep in mind that correcting a minor issue is easier, faster and less costly than addressing a more complex issue, so if we know for a fact that any existing condition will only get worse over time, then waiting and procrastinating on orthodontic treatment does not make much sense! The solution to your problem may be a lot easier and less involved than you think. Call us or book your complimentary consultation online. We are confident we can offer you a solution that fits your budget and lifestyle.
4. Retainers, retainers, retainers!
It is impossible to overstate this, but retainers are the best way to prevent teeth shifting! Retainers come in different designs and forms but the one thing in common is that they should be worn for life! Unrealistic and annoying? may be, but it’s a small price to pay to maintain a beautiful smile for life!
Dr. Ramzi Daibis is a board-certified orthodontist and the owner of Band & Wire Orthodontics in Clarendon Hills, IL. He specializes exclusively in Invisalign and braces for children and adults. Band & Wire Orthodontics serves Clarendon Hills, Hinsdale, Westmont, Downers Grove, Oak Brook, Willowbrook, Burr Ridge, Western Springs, La Grange, La Grange Park and Chicago.