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Are Permanent Teeth Capable of Shifting or Moving?

Between the growth of the jaw bones and the teeth, kids often experience their teeth moving around quite rapidly during growth spurts. Yet most adults assume that their permanent teeth are fixed and will not move over the rest of their lives.

This assumption is far from true. Many things can cause an adult's permanent teeth to slowly shift until they notice a visible difference or a bite pattern change. Figuring out why your teeth are moving or shifting will help you and your dentist choose the right way to straighten them back out again.

Gaps in Your Smile

The primary cause of alignment changes and movement in adult teeth is missing teeth. When you have a tooth extracted or it just fails to erupt in the first place, a gap develops. Interruptions in the line of teeth allow the rest of your smile to shift around, sometimes surprisingly quickly, due to the reduced pressure and open space.

Teeth exert pressure on each other in both directions when the entire set is intact, so even a single missing tooth leads to adult alignment shifts. Filling in the space with a crown or dental implant can prevent this shifting from occurring and maintain a healthy jaw bone structure under the surface as well.

Intact Wisdom Teeth

Even when all of your adult teeth are in place and exert perfectly balanced forces against each other, the pressure of emerging wisdom teeth can suddenly trigger a change in alignment. Teeth may become overcrowded that were once perfectly aligned, or they might twist and become visibly misaligned with the rest of the bite pattern.

This problem primarily occurs in young adults, but even older adults can experience it if their wisdom teeth take many years to emerge. Having your wisdom teeth removed is not always necessary, but you should continue to have yearly x-rays if you keep your wisdom teeth intact to make sure they're not exerting any unwanted forces on the rest of your teeth.

Gum Disease Development

A developing and worsening case of gum disease, also known as periodontitis, can leave your teeth loose or subject to changes in alignment. However, unchecked gum disease will also damage the roots so much that the shifting eventually turns into wiggling and teeth that fall out entirely.

Treating gum disease at the earliest signs, such as redness around the gumline and bad breath, can prevent all of this from happening.

Nighttime Tooth Grinding

Sometimes teeth may appear to shrink or narrow as you age. While teeth can shrink due to mineral loss in some cases, most people who notice this are actually grinding their teeth as they sleep and wearing away the surfaces.

Worn teeth don't press together as tightly, allowing them to shift and change position back or forth along your jaw. Wearing a mouth guard at night can prevent this kind of damage in the first place, but once your teeth are worn to the point of changing position or alignment, you'll need restorative crowns or caps to fill in the gaps along with the guard.

Lack of Retainer Use

Children and teens who wear braces need to keep using retainers as adults or face their teeth moving back to the original alignment. If you skip your retainer use for a few years, you may find yourself requiring adult braces to remedy the alignment shifts that can rapidly occur.

Anytime you notice a change in the position or alignment of any permanent teeth, call us here at Joseph M. Perry, D.D.S., P.A. We'll do a full oral health checkup to find the root cause and plan out a solution that meets your specific dental health needs.