Considering that your teeth are securely anchored to your jawbone, they might seem immovable without orthodontia. But teeth shifting out of alignment can occur for several reasons other than when braces are first removed. Not only that, the shift can cause problems with your bite that may result in jaw, facial or neck pain if left untreated.
If you've noticed a shift in your smile, it's helpful to know that some movement is common for everyone. But in some cases, you may need the guidance of a dental professional.
How Teeth Shift
Teeth are attached to your jawbone by the periodontal ligament as well as by cementum, which is an outer layer of your tooth made up of minerals and collagen, explains the U.S. National Library of Medicine. The periodontal ligament is made up of tightly wrapped connective tissue and collagen, making it a sturdy fastener for your tooth. While a ligament is durable, it can also be flexible, and its soft tissue makes it prone to mobility.
Why Movement Can Occur
According to the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO), your teeth will naturally move and shift throughout your life, but certain stressors can trigger more prominent movement. The fact is, any tooth can move out of place.
Teeth can also gradually move with age. According to The Dental Daily, a process called mesial drift that occurs as you age causes your teeth to slowly move toward the front of your mouth.
Additionally, a decrease in enamel caused by an injury or acid erosion can have an effect on your overall bite. Enamel loss changes your tooth shape, causing your teeth to move out of alignment. This means that any time your tooth shape is changed, whether from enamel damage, a filling or bruxism, your bite can slowly shift, as well.
Crooked teeth and overcrowding can create hard-to-reach spaces that are prone to bacteria and plaque buildup, even if you're diligent about brushing and flossing daily. These conditions can increase your chances of periodontal (or gum) disease and even result in broken teeth and tooth loss in severe cases.
Unfortunately, if you haven't taken proper care of your teeth or if you have a secondary disease, such as untreated diabetes, tooth loss is a possibility. Missing teeth can cause surrounding teeth to move sideways or downward.
Can You Prevent Teeth Shifting?
Even with your dentist's assurance that your smile is healthy, it's normal for teeth to shift. But when complications ensue, like tooth loss, natural overcrowding, crooked teeth or acute malocclusion (or a misaligned bite), you should seek an orthodontist to prevent further shifting.
The best ways to prevent natural shifting, as well as shifting that occurs after getting your braces removed, is to be proactive, advises the AAO. Practice good oral hygiene by limiting acidic foods, flossing and brushing twice daily and keeping up with regular dental checkups.
Surprisingly, if you favor sleeping on your stomach, your teeth can move. Side-sleeping or sleeping on your back is optimal for keeping your pearly whites in line. Poor posture is another reason your teeth can shift, notes Eon Aligners. That's particularly true for people who tend to rest their head on their hands while crouched over a computer screen. In both cases, your teeth may gradually move over a period of months or years. Try to limit stomach sleeping and make sure your workspace supports good posture.
Treatments for Teeth Shifting
Orthodontic treatments for teeth movement can run the spectrum from braces to a retainer or mouth guard. According to theOral Health Foundation, treatment always depends on the severity of your bite or shift and the underlying cause. If you've recently finished wearing braces and have lapsed in your retainer habits, it could be as simple as returning to wearing your orthodontic retainer every day.
The reality is that no treatment is guaranteed as a permanent solution. But if you're concerned about subtle shifting, make an appointment with your dentist. Your commitment to a treatment plan will safeguard your straight smile.