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. Some people notice it after orthodontic treatment, especially if they don’t wear a retainer.
When detected early, shifting teeth can be easily resolved with immediate treatment.
Common causes of teeth shifting include:
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It is natural to experience teeth shifting throughout your life. Teeth are under constant stress during the day, which adds up over time. For example, things like talking, smiling, sneezing, and coughing cause the face and mouth muscles to move. This can lead to gradual tooth movement.
Common signs and symptoms of shifting teeth include:
You can prevent teeth from shifting by:
To correct shifting teeth, the cause of the problem should be identified and treated first.
If gum disease is the primary factor, you'll need to undergo treatment with a periodontist before beginning orthodontic treatment.
The most effective method for fixing shifting teeth — regardless of the cause — is braces, which move teeth by applying pressure.
Braces are the best treatment option for both children and adults. According to the American Association of Orthodontics, one out of five orthodontic patients is over 21.
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.
A dentist or orthodontist regularly changes the rubber bands surrounding the wire to help hold it in place.
New wires will gently put pressure on the teeth to move into their correct position. The brackets may be metal or tooth-colored.
Braces aim to improve teeth and jaw position to make them fit together better. They are fixed to the teeth and cannot be removed by the patient. They also can’t fall out of the mouth while sleeping or doing sports.
However, fixed braces are always visible when you smile and can’t be removed for special occasions or photos.
Food can easily get trapped in metal braces, so patients should be extra careful to keep their teeth clean. Not cleaning the teeth carefully can cause cavities, limit effectiveness, and prolong treatment time.
Patients typically schedule appointments every month rather than the usual twice annually to ensure that their teeth are well cleaned.
The average treatment time for traditional braces is two years.
Invisible aligners, also called clear aligners, are made of transparent plastic material. Aligners are a common and discreet alternative to metal braces.
You'll wear a custom-made aligner for a few weeks to a month and will get a new set every few weeks throughout treatment. The teeth gradually move into the correct position.
Aligners are easily removable and should be taken out before eating, brushing, and flossing. This makes maintaining good dental hygiene much easier than with metal braces.
To maximize efficacy, patients should wear them for about 22 hours a day, including during sleep.
Popular direct-to-consumer clear aligner brands include Byte, Candid, and SmileDirectClub. These brands offer convenience because they do not require office visits.
Customers can take impressions at home and ship them to certified dental professionals to have their custom aligners made.
Over the last 20 years, 5 million patients have used clear aligners. The average treatment time for clear aligners is about two years, similar to traditional braces.
Initially developed in 1997, the Invisalign transparent aligner system has treated over 9 million patients.
Invisalign currently holds an estimated 10% of the orthodontic market.
Just last year, orthodontists prescribed Invisalign trays to 931,000 people, at a cost to the consumer of $3,000 to $8,000 each.
Invisalign aligner trays are replaced every one to two weeks. Patients need to wear Invisalign trays for most of the day (20–22 hours) to see results. However, you can easily remove them to eat, brush, floss, or attend special occasions.
Read our clear aligners vs braces comparison to learn which treatment is better for you.
To get Invisalign, you'll need to meet with a certified Invisalign doctor 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.
The best way to prevent unwanted teeth shifting is to ensure an overall healthy oral environment. By preventing tooth loss and gum disease, the undesirable movement of teeth can be avoided.
Patients should always be mindful of the early signs of gum disease.
Optimal oral hygiene and regular check-ups with a general dentist is the only way to maintain good oral health.
If toothbrushing is done correctly, patients can avoid teeth or gum problems. If detected early, a dentist can successfully treat gum disease with no lasting adverse effects.
Preventative steps to reduce the risk of teeth shifting include:
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“Clear Aligners Market Size, Analysis, Trends, Growth and Forecast.” Verified Market Research, www.verifiedmarketresearch.com/product/clear-aligners-market/
Gault, Isabelle. “Correlations between Orthodontic Treatment and Posture.” Journal of Dentofacial Anomalies and Orthodontics, Éditions SID, Groupe EDP Sciences, 1 Nov. 2010, www.jdao-journal.org/articles/odfen/abs/2008/04/odfen2008114p232/odfen2008114p232.html
“Misaligned teeth and jaws: Treatment with fixed braces”. InformedHealth.org. Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2006-. 2020 Jan 16. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK553378/
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, 15 Apr. 2018, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5886451/
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Tindera, Michela. “Bracing For Competition? Cheaper Challengers Enter Invisalign's $1.5 Billion Market.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 3 May 2018, www.forbes.com/sites/michelatindera/2018/05/02/bracing-for-competition-cheaper-challengers-enter-invisaligns-1-5-billion-market/?sh=2247f5fb2392
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, 5 Jan. 2017, www.univision.com/univision-news/health/tooth-mobility-how-to-know-if-your-teeth-are-shifting-and-what-to-do-about-it