Why Do Teeth Move As We Age?

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Woman with teeth retainer

Although you can’t see it happening, your teeth are always moving and shifting in your mouth. Even if you’ve had dental work or braces in the past, your teeth will continue to move slightly throughout your life. This movement can be down to multiple different factors, including your jaw changing shape, pressures from eating, your teeth moving back into their natural position following orthodontic work or other possible health issues, such as gum disease or bruxism. 

 

Due to the natural forces your mouth goes through on a daily basis and changes to your body as part of the natural ageing process. Some movement and shifting is to be expected and you will be unlikely to prevent this from happening. However, there are some steps you can take in order to keep your teeth in alignment. As well as this, you can minimise the movement of your teeth as you age, as well as keeping your teeth healthy. 

 

Why and How Do Teeth Move? 

Many people tend to think of teeth as being immovable, but they do offer some flexibility and movement over time, due to the way in which they are fixed to your jawline. Your teeth are connected to your upper and lower jawbones with periodontal ligaments and cementum material. This combination allows your mouth to withstand the day to day forces placed on your teeth by chewing and other regular activities. 

 

Your teeth move naturally throughout your life and this movement is often due to stressors and triggers. Some causes of teeth movement include:

  • Ageing 
  • Orthodontic treatment
  • Injury to your mouth or face
  • Grinding your teeth (known as bruxism)
  • Gum disease, tooth decay and dental conditions

 

If you notice any signs of teeth movement, then it is important to address this as soon as possible. Teeth movement and shifting can lead to further, more severe issues with your teeth, jaw, bite and overall dental health and wellbeing.  

Teeth Movement After Orthodontic Procedures

If you’ve ever had orthodontic treatments or procedures, such as braces, in order to correct your tooth alignment, then they will have been moved from their natural positions. Once your braces have been removed, or you stop wearing your retainers, then you might find that your teeth begin to shift back to their natural positions. This is natural, but the movement may be more pronounced in some people, whilst others see very little movement or shifting. 

 

If you have a fixed or lingual retainer, which is a retainer that is permanently bonded to your teeth following orthodontic treatment, then you are also at risk of some teeth movement. Another reason why your teeth might move after braces could be related to the health of your gums and jawbone. If you’ve encountered bone loss as a result of gum disease, or other health problems, it’s harder for your teeth to remain stable and in one place, especially once braces are removed. 

 

Many people who have had orthodontic treatment as a teenager or young adult find that in the years following, their teeth begin to shift again and return to their natural placement. Invisalign braces tend to be a popular treatment choice for those who are looking for straighter teeth as adults.

 

Invisalign braces are invisible and less noticeable than traditional metal wired braces. Invisalign braces are not like traditional braces and are much more manageable than wired braces. They can make you feel much more confident, especially if you’ve always been conscious about smiling and many Invisalign treatments include post-treatment whitening, which further helps boost confidence. 

 

Teeth Removal and Teeth Shifts 

If you have ever had a tooth extraction, either for orthodontic treatment or general dental health, then you might have found that following the removal, the teeth surrounding the gap have started shifting in order to fill the space. Wisdom teeth removal often doesn’t cause any problems, as these tend to be removed before they form space in the mouth. Many people find that following wisdom teeth removal or molar extraction, there is little movement or shifting. 

 

However, if you’ve had a canine or front tooth removed, for example, then this can be different. Teeth will tend to move in order to fill the gap left behind. This can cause them to become crooked or misaligned. The best way to avoid this issue is to replace missing teeth with a dental bridge or implant, which spans the space left behind from the missing tooth. 

 

Other Reasons Why Teeth Move As You Age

Your teeth are under a number of different stresses, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Even just talking can put pressure on your teeth, as you push your tongue against your teeth to create certain noises and words. Smiling, sneezing and coughing can all cause the muscles in your face and mouth to move, which also then adds more pressure on your mouth and even damage an individual tooth. 

 

These stresses are very minor and will have little impact on your tooth alignment. However, over time these changes may be enough to warrant braces as you age. There are other substantial factors that can cause tooth movement and shifting over time, including: 

 

Jawbone Growth

As you age, your jawbone tends to grow forward and become much narrower. At first, this can cause your lower jaw to become overcrowded. Over time, this change in your bottom teeth can affect the way in which you bite, which then causes a shift in your upper teeth. The changes can be so slight that nothing needs to be done, but some people will need a tooth extraction or implants to correct their bite, with further dental treatment needed.

 

CPAP

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure involves wearing a mask over your nose in order to get a steady flow of air into the lungs. CPAP was designed for people who have obstructive sleep apnea, which is a condition that causes the tissue in the back of your throat to relax during sleep. This in turn restricts airflow and oxygen into the airways. A study found that therapy can cause some tooth movement, with researchers suggesting that people can develop changes in their bite. 

 

Can You Prevent Shifting and Movement? 

No matter if you’ve had orthodontic work or not, you can take steps to reduce the amount of movement and shifting in the years ahead. When it comes to preventing your teeth from shifting, being proactive is the best thing to do, much like most dental issues. You can reduce your risk of developing serious issues with shifting and movement by developing and practising a proper oral care routine. This will help you to avoid a whole range of other dental problems further down the line, as well as helping you to avoid treatment for shifting and movement in the future. 

 

Some steps you can take for creating a proper oral hygiene routine include: 

  • Brush twice a day, gently and with a soft-bristled toothbrush 
  • Cleaning in between your teeth with floss or an interdental brush
  • Rinsing after brushing with mouthwash or antiseptic mouth rinse
  • Consuming a healthy diet that is low in sugary drinks and food
  • Avoid smoking and tobacco 
  • Visit your dentist regularly and follow their care recommendations

 

Your teeth shifting is a natural process of ageing and some things can lead to dental problems down the road if not addressed. It’s important to check in with your dentist if you think you are having movement issues to see if you need further treatment and advice. There are some things that you can do to minimise shifting and movement, such as:

Removable Retainer

If you’ve had braces then the chances are that, once you’ve had them removed, your orthodontist will get you fitted for a retainer. They will likely advise you to wear it whilst you sleep or for as many hours during both day and night as you can. Wearing your retainer immediately after having your braces removed is important, as your teeth will be more likely to move after this. You need to follow your orthodontist’s recommendations in order to keep your recently straightened teeth in perfect alignment. 

 

Permanent Retainers

Lingual, or fixed, retainers are effective when it comes to maintaining your tooth alignment and should be considered as a treatment once your braces are taken off. If you get a fixed retainer, then be sure to get the retainers checked regularly. If there is an issue or problem with one or two of the bonds, then this can then lead to bigger issues that require more orthodontic treatment. 

 

Conclusion

Teeth will shift after some dental and orthodontic procedures and will naturally shift whilst you age. These shifts can lead to slight or gradual changes which may then require the attention of a dentist. Following orthodontic treatment, such as braces, wearing your retainer as and when instructed by your orthodontist is one of the best ways to minimise the severity of any shifting and movement. If you do notice any movement, then you should visit your dentist as soon as possible so that any changes can be reviewed.

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