Why Do Teeth Shift with Age?

Why do teeth shift with age? From the time our first teeth come in around the first birthday, our teeth can move. As we age, slow, gradual movement is normal. 

Sometimes, larger shifts can happen. When teeth move, orthodontic treatment can move them gradually back to their ideal positions. Otherwise, shifting teeth can cause deterioration in oral health.

Let’s take a closer look. First, consider how teeth are held in place.

The Periodontal Ligament

How are teeth held in place? Often, people believe the gums and jawbone hold the teeth firmly in place. However, there’s another quite flexible way teeth are secured. 

The periodontal ligament (PDL) fastens teeth to the jaw with connective tissue and collagen. Light yellow minerals and collagen on the outside of the tooth’s roots, called cementum, interlocks with root dentin and further secures the ligament.  

This special ligament serves as a kind of shock absorber when you chew and grind your teeth. However, if constant or excess pressure is applied, teeth can become loose.

Thankfully, there are big advantages to the PDL. For example, a dentist can remove a tooth without affecting the underlying bone. Plus, orthodontists can apply constant pressure with braces or Invisalign. Thus, we can gradually shift teeth and straighten your smile.

Bruxism – Grinding Teeth

Sometimes, excessive teeth grinding (bruxism) and jaw clenching can enlarge the PDL. Then, teeth are more prone to shifting. Over the years, bruxism can damage surrounding bone and gum tissue. 

Also, grinding teeth can impact the temporomandibular joint in the jaws. Consequently, TMJ symptoms can lead to a range of debilitating symptoms.

Natural Mesial Drift

Through a process of mesial drift, teeth naturally move toward the front of the mouth as we age. Sometimes, this can cause misalignments that negatively impact jaw and proper dental function.

Over a lifetime of chewing and consuming food, tooth enamel becomes worn or damaged. Often, people lose teeth as they age. Occasionally, injuries damage teeth. As things like this happen, it can leave gaps that encourage teeth to shift.  

Whenever there are open gaps and lost teeth, neighboring teeth can shift. Worse, the underlying bone can recede. Without the constant pressure of the tooth above it, the bone deteriorates. It’s similar to how muscles atrophy if you don’t use them.

Malocclusions – Misaligned Teeth and Jaws

Unfortunately, most people aren’t lucky enough to have a perfectly aligned smile from birth. Due to changes in the human diet over thousands of years, people tend to have more crowding and spacing issues. In particular, sugary soft foods contribute to dental problems.

Thus, misalignments called malocclusions ( or a bad bite) are very common. Common malocclusions include overbites, underbites, crossbites, openbites, and more. Often, the jaws can become misaligned, resulting in a wide range of symptoms.

Fortunately, orthodontists have many options to address malocclusions. With treatments like Invisalign, braces, and corrective surgery, you can have a picture-perfect smile again. It’s not too late to get started. Today, more adults are going forward to get the smiles they’ve always wanted.

Lost Teeth and Gaps

Whenever you lose a tooth, the nearby teeth may shift, leading to malocclusions. As many as 178 million Americans have lost at least one tooth. However, by age 65, up to 30 percent of Americans may lose all of their teeth. If teeth are missing, restorative dentistry and orthodontics ensure teeth don’t shift. Even in advanced cases, you can enjoy a beautiful, healthy smile.

Periodontal Disease 

As we age, we are more likely to develop periodontal (gum) disease. By age 30, 47.2% of adults have periodontal disease, and 70.1% of adults over 65 are affected. Gum disease is the result of bacteria that forms plaque and tartar below the gum line.

When this happens, it can damage the PDL and the underlying bone. Once more, teeth become more prone to shifting. However, dental professionals can treat gum disease effectively.

Stopping Teeth from Shifting

Orthodontic treatments like braces and Invisalign can slowly move teeth in a controlled way. During treatment, you’ll notice gradual changes and see your teeth moving. Finally, your teeth will reach their ideal positions.

Immediately after orthodontic treatment, teeth will be more susceptible to shifting again. Thus, you will need to wear a retainer to keep teeth in place. A retainer ensures you’ll enjoy your beautiful new smile for a lifetime. 

Wearing a retainer means you’ll continue to enjoy fantastic results. We’ll discuss retainers when your treatment concludes. Then, you’re ready to show the world your spectacular, healthy smile.

We hope this helps with the question, “Why do teeth shift with age?” Although some shifting is inevitable, an orthodontist can shift the movement back in your favor.

Please, check out our Before and After Gallery and testimonials for examples of the smiles we help create.

Today, you can get started from home for free. Take a free virtual consultation and learn more. Or schedule your first in-person visit with a top award-winning orthodontist, Dr. Barry J Glaser.

For any questions, give us a call at 914.739.6400 anytime. 

Proudly providing orthodontic services to Northern Westchester and Putnam Counties. Including Cortlandt Manor, Peekskill, Yorktown Heights, Mahopac, Croton-On-Hudson, and Cold Spring.