Dentistry
Cosmetic
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Updated on January 2, 2023
5 min read

Teeth Shifting

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What Causes Teeth Shifting?

Unwanted tooth movement occurs when there is an imbalance of forces in the mouth. Teeth shifting is common in older adults but can occur at any age, even in children. 

Some people notice their teeth shifting back to their previous positions after orthodontic treatment, especially if they don’t wear a retainer. However, when detected early, this can be easily resolved with orthodontic treatment.

It is natural to experience teeth shifting throughout your life because teeth are under constant stress. Factors that can cause teeth shifting include:

  • Changing jaw shape due to aging
  • Pressure from eating and talking
  • Everyday mouth movements (smiling, sneezing, etc.)
  • Hormone changes or pregnancy
  • Poor oral hygiene and habits
  • Partial tooth loss 

Why Do Teeth Shift After Braces?

Once your braces come off, your teeth naturally want to move back to their old positions. This is especially true if you don’t wear your retainer regularly.

Here are a few reasons why your teeth can still move after orthodontic treatment:

  • Ligaments — the periodontal ligaments around teeth are elastic, which is why they can drive tooth movement even after orthodontic treatment
  • Retainers — hold your teeth in place; if you stop wearing them, your teeth can move freely
  • Everyday movements — cause pressure on your teeth; these forces can cause your teeth to move slowly
  • Memory — periodontal ligaments have memory, which makes them want to return the teeth to their old positions

Why Do Teeth Shift After Tooth Extraction?

If you have a tooth removed, the surrounding teeth may start to fill the missing space. 

When your teeth shift like this, it can cause problems. Contact a dentist to see if your bite or teeth need treatment. They may recommend replacing the missing tooth with a dental implant, bridge, or partial denture.

On the other hand, wisdom tooth removal typically does not cause tooth shifting.

Conditions That Can Cause Your Teeth To Shift

Both dental and medical conditions and diseases can cause your teeth to shift. These conditions include:

  • Periodontal disease
  • Certain bone diseases, including cysts 
  • Periapical periodontitis or tooth inflammation
  • Oral cancer
  • Dental trauma
  • Incomplete orthodontic treatment
  • Wear and tear of dental fillings and crowns
  • Jawbone growth
  • Teeth grinding (bruxism)
  • Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy
  • Wisdom teeth eruption

Clear aligners can save you thousands of dollars compared to braces. Learn about clear aligners.

How to Tell if Your Teeth are Shifting

Common signs and symptoms of shifting teeth include:

  • A change in your smile
  • Visible gaps between teeth
  • Overlapping teeth
  • Increased tooth sensitivity
  • A retainer or other appliance that no longer fits
  • Tooth pain

How Can I Fix My Shifting Teeth?

To correct shifting teeth, you’ll need to identify and treat the cause first. If gum disease is the primary factor, you'll need to undergo treatment with a periodontist before beginning orthodontic treatment.

Other options for correcting shifting teeth include:

Traditional Braces

Traditional braces consist of brackets that are cemented to the teeth. They are connected by a wire and are held in place with rubber bands.

Braces are the most effective method for shifting teeth because they apply constant pressure to the teeth. A dentist regularly changes and adjusts the braces to hold your teeth in place.

Most people need to schedule a monthly dental appointment for maintenance and adjustments. The average treatment time for braces is two years.

Invisalign

Initially developed in 1997, the Invisalign transparent aligner system has been used to treat over 9 million patients. Invisalign currently holds an estimated 10% of the orthodontic market.

Invisalign trays are replaced every 1 to 3 weeks. Each aligner set must be worn for most of the day (20 to 22 hours) to see results. However, you can easily remove them to eat, brush, floss, or attend special occasions.

To get Invisalign, you'll need to meet with a certified Invisalign dentist who will look at your smile and take impressions of your teeth. Then the dentist or orthodontist will create a treatment plan, and your custom aligners will be made.

Direct-to-Consumer Clear Aligners

Invisible aligners, also called clear aligners, are made of transparent plastic. They are a common and discreet alternative to traditional metal braces.

You'll wear each custom-made aligner for a few weeks before replacing them with a new set. Each tray moves your teeth gradually into the correct position.

To maximize efficacy, wear them for about 22 hours daily, including while you sleep. The average treatment time for clear aligners is about two years, similar to traditional braces. But they can only treat mild to moderate bite issues.

We recommend at-home clear aligners if you have mild teeth misalignment. View our top recommendations.

Preventative Steps to Reduce Crooked Teeth

The best way to prevent unwanted teeth shifting is to ensure a healthy oral environment. A few ways you can prevent your teeth from shifting include:

  • Wearing your retainer or other appliances 
  • Addressing teeth grinding
  • Maintaining good oral hygiene
  • Refraining from smoking
  • Scheduling regular dental cleanings
  • Correcting poor posture
  • Restoring decayed teeth
  • Maintaining good overall health
  • Wearing a mouthguard when playing sports
  • Wearing a night guard for teeth grinding

You should also be mindful of the early signs of gum disease. Optimal oral hygiene and regular check-ups with a general dentist is the best way to maintain good oral health.

If toothbrushing is done correctly, you can avoid teeth or gum problems. A dentist can successfully treat gum disease without lasting adverse effects if detected early.

What Medications Affect Teeth?

Certain medications can prevent or cause your teeth to shift. You could take calcium and vitamin D supplements to prevent osteoporosis or bone disease. 

You can also use medication to keep diabetes under control, which helps prevent gum disease. Be aware of any medications that can contribute to tooth decay by causing a dry mouth, including:

  • Antihistamines
  • Decongestants
  • Opioid pain medications
  • High blood pressure medications
  • Antidepressants
  • Muscle relaxants
  • Parkinson’s disease medications

Summary

Unwanted tooth movement occurs when there is an upset in the balance of forces in the mouth. Teeth shifting is common in older adults but can occur at any age. 

Teeth movement is a natural occurrence and can be prevented with treatment and tools like braces or retainers. Your teeth can move because of various reasons, including:

  • Orthodontic procedures
  • Dental conditions
  • Health conditions
  • Aging
  • Hormonal changes
  • Extraction of teeth 

The best way to prevent unwanted teeth shifting is to ensure a healthy oral environment.

What’s Next?

The most popular at-home clear aligner kits can be found right here:

Learn about the different brands and what they offer.

Last updated on January 2, 2023
8 Sources Cited
Last updated on January 2, 2023
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
  1. Braces Have Changed, From Metal to Tooth-Colored to Clear.” U.S. Food and Drug Administration, FDA, 2017.
  2. Clear Aligners Market Size, Analysis, Trends, Growth and Forecast.” Verified Market Research. 
  3. Gault, Isabelle. “Correlations between Orthodontic Treatment and Posture.” Journal of Dentofacial Anomalies and Orthodontics, Éditions SID, Groupe EDP Sciences, 2010.
  4. Misaligned teeth and jaws: Treatment with fixed braces”. InformedHealth.org. Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2020.
  5. Pliska, Benjamin T, and Fernanda R Almeida. “Tooth Movement Associated With CPAP Therapy.” Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine : JCSM : Official Publication of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, American Academy of Sleep Medicine, 2018.
  6. Raman, Dr. Renukanth  a/l Patabi Cheta. “Why Are My Teeth Moving Apart?” Myhealth.gov, 2015.
  7. Tindera, Michela. “Bracing For Competition? Cheaper Challengers Enter Invisalign's $1.5 Billion Market.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 2018.
  8. Veitz-Keenan, Dr. Analia, and Dr. Richard Neiderman. “Tooth Mobility: How to Know If Your Teeth Are Shifting, and What to Do about It.” Univision News, Univision, 2017.
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