When Your Teeth are Acting Shifty: Why Your Teeth are Shifting and How to Stop Them in Their Tracks

Posted on: 29 December 2016

Your teeth are like the stones of an ancient monument, sturdy and solid on their own, yet still reliant on the adjacent stones to hold them firmly in place. Over time, for a number of reasons, your teeth will shift, and when this happens, the whole structure of your mouth could change. 

Shifting teeth don't just lower the quality of your smile due to overcrowding; they also cause lip and cheek biting, as well as an imperfect bite (malocclusion). Here are some of the most common causes of shifting teeth and some possible treatment options. 

Cause: Excess Space Due to Lost Tooth

When a tooth is lost either through surgery or trauma, the space it leaves behind will cause your teeth to shift and fill the void. The teeth on either side of the space will lean into the space, and the tooth directly opposite will grow towards the gap. This becomes a problem especially if the affected teeth are in the smile zone. 

Treatment Suggestion: Dental Bridge, Implant or Braces

If you catch the problem early, then your dentist can halt the shifting teeth by using a dental bridge or an implant. A dental bridge consists of a single false tooth, which will replace the lost tooth, with two crowns on either side that will fit over the adjacent teeth and act as abutments. 

However, if there is very little remaining space, your dentist can recommend braces to re-position your teeth. Braces can be used to slowly push your teeth back into their natural positions, so that a bridge or implant can replace the lost tooth. 

Cause: Grinding/Bruxism

Many people aren't aware that they grind their teeth at night. Over time, the constant grinding pushes teeth out of position, and this eventually begins to affect your bite and smile. 

Treatment Suggestion: Braces and Night Guard

Your dentist can fit braces to guide your teeth back into their former positions and also prepare a custom night guard that will protect both your teeth and braces at night. 

Cause: Natural Tooth Movement

This generally happens to everyone, but for some people it is less severe. The molars have a tendency to shift forwards over time, while the premolars tend to shift backwards. Eventually, these teeth meet, and the molars being the more powerful force, gradually push the teeth forward until they begin to crowd. 

Treatment Suggestion: Braces or Invisalign

Again, braces can correct this type of shifting. Invisalign is also an option if you prefer a less invasive method of tooth movement, however, Invisalign works best with minor malocclusion. 

Cause: Nail Biting

This type of shifting generally affects both the upper and lower central incisors (those used for biting), and is less severe than other types of shifting. However, if even one tooth is gradually shifted due to the constant force exerted during nail biting, this tooth will begin to push against the adjacent teeth and cause a domino effect. 

Treatment Suggestion: Braces or Invisalign

Invisalign could be used to treat minor cases caught early on. Braces would be more suitable for cases that have grown much worse over time, where the teeth have begun to overlap or intrude. 

If your teeth are shifting, you can do something about it before your smile pays the price. Talk to your dentist about the cause, and they will suggest an appropriate treatment.