Have you ever looked in the mirror, noticed something about your appearance, and wondered, “How long has that been there?”
This happens to countless people every day when it comes to their smiles. “Did those teeth always overlap that way?” “Has that gap always been there?”
Chances are that no, you haven’t been hallucinating a straighter smile for your entire life. Teeth shifting is a common problem for people of any age, and it may be affecting you today.
Why Are My Teeth Shifting?
Braces are common in teens and kids, so most people assume that after that age, teeth don’t shift. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
While teeth do tend to move more dramatically as a child grows and their jaw grows with them, shifting can happen throughout our lives.
Teeth can shift for a wide range of reasons, or several of these causes can work at the same time.
You know those lectures your dental hygienist gives you about flossing every time to get your teeth cleaned? They aren’t just blowing smoke.
Periodontal disease refers to any illness or decay in your gums or the bone beneath your teeth. Those types of tissue are crucial for supporting your teeth and keeping them in place. When they start to break down, your teeth become more mobile.
Jaw Bone Changes
It’s easy to see the way a person’s face changes as they go through the growth spurts of adolescence. Did you know your facial bones continue to change throughout your entire life?
Your lower jaw, in particular, will impact the way your teeth shift.
As you get older, your lower jaw grows forward. At the same time, it becomes more narrow.
This leads to teeth shifting in a few ways. First, when your lower jaw becomes more narrow, it can cause your lower teeth to crowd together and overlap.
Second, the changes in your jaw will also change your bite, or the way your top and bottom teeth come together. This adjusted pressure adds up over time and can eventually cause your upper teeth to develop gaps.
Grinding Your Teeth
You may have heard of people grinding their teeth in their sleep, but it’s more common than most people realize. In fact, some studies estimate that 10% of adults and 15% of kids grind their teeth.
Teeth grinding and teeth clenching don’t only happen when your head hits the pillow. It’s also a common stress response: people clench or grind their teeth while they’re awake and under stress, often without realizing.
Grinding and clenching your teeth puts pressure on your teeth, which can shift them in different directions.
Many aspects of your facial anatomy become smaller and thinner as you age, and your lips are no exception.
As you age, your lips get smaller and tighter. It may not feel like a big difference, but that small change puts pressure on your teeth over time.
That added pressure could shift your teeth.
Accommodating Tooth Loss
Tooth loss isn’t an uncommon problem. Between injuries, dental decay, gum disease, and other causes, 120 million Americans are missing at least one tooth.
When you lose a tooth or have a tooth extracted, your other teeth take advantage of the extra space. They will spread out and you may develop gaps between nearby teeth.
This is why your dentist or orthodontist may recommend spacers, retainers, implants, or other methods to keep the space open.
Skipping a Retainer
Many people who straighten their teeth choose to get braces as teens or kids and assume their correction will last.
Unfortunately, teeth tend to try to migrate back to their “natural” position. You may not notice the change from day to day, but over the course of months or years, you could see your teeth shift after getting your braces off.
This is why it’s so important to wear a retainer after braces. You may only need to wear it at night but it will keep your teeth in place.
What Can I Do About My Teeth Shifting?
As you can see from the potential causes above, some factors that cause teeth to shift aren’t under your control. There isn’t much you can do about your jaw growing and changing shape.
There are other measures you can take to deal with your shifting teeth, though.
Correct the Shifting You Already Have
This step depends on how much your teeth have already shifted. If you’re okay with the amount of shifting you already have, you may be able to focus on prevention alone.
If you want to get your teeth back to a straighter, well-aligned form, you can choose from a variety of types of braces to straighten your teeth.
Make Oral Health a Priority
When it comes to preventing future teeth shifting, your oral health plays a powerful role.
Keep up a consistent plan of brushing and flossing your teeth twice per day. Antibacterial mouthwash can be helpful as well. Don’t forget to keep up with your dental cleanings every six months or however often your dentist recommends.
This allows you to keep your teeth, gums, and mouth healthy to keep your teeth stable.
Use Remedies for Teeth Grinding
If you already know that you grind your teeth, you may not be able to stop it entirely but you can reduce the damage it does.
The most effective choice is a mouthguard. This keeps your teeth from getting damaged and it distributes the pressure on them so they’re less likely to shift.
If you aren’t sure, it’s also important to find out if you grind your teeth in your sleep. If you share your bed with someone, they may hear you grinding if you fall asleep before they do.
Another common sign is to wake up with headaches, sore gums, or a sore jaw on a regular basis. If this happens to you, ask your dental professional about a mouthguard.
How to Stop Your Teeth Shifting
Teeth shifting is a discouraging problem, especially if you used to take pride in your smile. The good news is that there are options available.
To keep your teeth from shifting further and to get them back to their straighter form, call our orthodontic office today.