Is Shifting Teeth Serious?

Over time, it’s normal for a person’s teeth to shift slightly, but if you notice that your teeth have changed position, it’s a good idea to get everything checked out by a dentist. Some tooth movement is often harmless, but significantly shifting teeth can create misalignments that interfere with the bite, complicate effective oral hygiene, or cause noticeable cosmetic issues. If the appearance of your shifting teeth bothers you, or if your dentist tells you that your tooth movement has affected their ability to function properly, there are options for restoring the position and alignment of the teeth. While shifting teeth may not indicate a serious problem, some of the causes of tooth movement can point to larger issues, and some cases of shifting teeth can cause problems to develop over time. In all cases, it’s best to see your dentist if you suspect your teeth are shifting so that they can address the root cause and provide treatment if it’s needed.

Sometimes, the teeth shift naturally. As people age, our bones and gum tissue can weaken and become less supple, and changes in the shape of the jaw combined with natural wear and tear on the teeth can cause the teeth to shift. These shifts are often minimal and don’t require treatment, though treatment is available if their appearance bothers you or if the misalignment interferes with proper function. Sometimes, however, shifting teeth could indicate a serious dental problem that requires treatment, like gum disease or bone or tooth loss. In these cases, treatment can eliminate clinical issues while correcting dental alignment and restoring the health of the oral cavity.

When people lose their natural teeth, it’s common for the remaining teeth to migrate, filling in the space where the tooth is missing; replacing any natural teeth that are lost or extracted can prevent this tooth migration and maintain the healthy alignment of the teeth when one or more are lost. Shifting teeth can also be a sign that gum disease is present. Gum disease weakens the gums and bone that support the teeth, loosening their stable anchors in the mouth and allowing them to migrate as the tissues continue to weaken. With treatment, gum disease can be stopped in its tracks and the integrity of the teeth and oral cavity can be maintained. Without treatment, gum disease leads to the continued loss of bone and tissue and the eventual loss of the teeth. Chronic, habitual clenching and grinding of the teeth, known as bruxism, can also cause the teeth to shift and lead to painful problems with the jaw; bruxism can be managed with a night guard that protects the teeth from excessive force and helps keep them in place. \

If you notice that any of your teeth appear suddenly crooked or look like their angle has shifted, this could be a sign that your teeth are shifting. If new gaps appear between your teeth, or if you notice that your bite feels uncomfortable or misaligned, this could also indicate tooth migration. Shifting teeth can also interfere with comfortable speech. If your shifting teeth interfere with your comfortable ability to function, or if you simply don’t like the way they look, an orthodontist can review your treatment options, which usually include braces, Invisalign, retainers, or dental restorations. When gum disease is present, a periodontist can clean and treat the gums and help restore the oral cavity to health, stabilizing shifting teeth. Early attention from a dentist could eliminate the need for corrective orthodontia and prevent serious complications from developing.

Shifting Teeth with Age