You may think that those braces you had as a teen were meant to keep your pearly whites picture perfect for all of time. So why does your smile suddenly seem a little off? You aren’t imagining it: Your teeth are shifting. And it can be problematic for more than cosmetic reasons.
Why Is Teeth Shifting Considered Normal?
“Mesial drift” is the technical name for teeth shifting due to bone loss that naturally occurs with age. According to Dr. Christopher Holland, owner of New Image Dentistry in San Antonio, Texas, it is especially noticeable in lower front teeth. “The anterior portion of the mandible, which is where your front teeth are, goes through a remodeling — or kind of shrinking — process as we age,” he says. “The teeth become less stabilized and tend to shift.”
This can cause overcrowding of the teeth, which can be problematic when chewing and cause the teeth to chip, fracture, or even loosen. And if you don’t like the way your teeth alignment looks now, it’s almost guaranteed to get worse.
What Can Be Done?
But you don’t have to just grin and bear it. There are things you can do to prevent and correct your shifting teeth — namely braces and retainers. But consistency is key. “[Traditional] braces or Invisalign can be used to move the teeth back to proper position,” says Holland. However, once they have been moved, teeth are less stable and prone to even more shifting. That’s where retainers come in. “Retainers must be worn after braces are removed to hold the teeth in place, otherwise they will just move again,” he says.
If the bone loss and shifting is such that it has caused a sunken look to the lower portion of the face, surgery is also an option. “Chin and lower-lip implants can give a fuller, more youthful look,” Holland says.
When Is It Not Normal?
As Holland points out, shifting teeth is usually not anything to worry about unless it begins to interfere with your bite, in which case braces and retainers can really give you something to smile about. But there are a few rare instances where the movement of your teeth might be something more.
“When the teeth become loose, bleed, or have excessive wear, you need to be concerned about the cause,” Holland says. “A thorough examination to rule out periodontal disease or other factors is in order.”