What Causes Teeth to Shift in Adults

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The smile you have today might be gone tomorrow. That’s because your teeth are always moving and shifting, slowly changing your mouth and teeth alignment.

Even though teeth shifting is common, there are some factors that can speed up these changes, leading to misaligned teeth and issues with oral health.

But exactly what causes teeth to shift in adults? Read on for some common causes and ways to achieve a straight and sparkling smile.

What Causes Teeth to Shift in Adults?

As you get older, you may notice your teeth don’t look the same as they once did.

If you’re struggling with shifting and crowding teeth, here are some of the top culprits.

Gum Disease

Periodontal disease, or gum disease, breaks down the gums supporting the teeth. When this support system is weak, the teeth grow weaker too.

Then, tooth decay can make the bones smaller, leaving some space between teeth. Then, teeth that were once held perfectly in place start to shift in these spaces, leading to misalignment.

When gum disease is severe, teeth can even become loose in the mouth. This can make shifting even more prominent.

Weak Enamel

Your teeth are protected by a layer of enamel that, over time, may become worn and weakened.

Then, like tooth decay, this can gradually change the shape and size of your teeth. When teeth get smaller, there’s more space for other teeth to move around, causing a crooked smile.

Tooth Loss or Removal

Losing a tooth from an injury or having a dentist extract a tooth commonly leads to teeth shifting.

Some may believe that wisdom tooth removal will lead to changes in their other teeth. But generally, wisdom teeth have little effect on the rest of the mouth.

Instead, the teeth located more centrally in the mouth, like incisors, are more likely to cause shifting if removed because they’re hugged by two other teeth. Then, even if only one of those teeth moves, it can trigger a domino effect with other neighbouring teeth.

Teeth Grinding and Clenching

Teeth grinding and clenching is something many people do without even realizing it. In fact, nearly 10% of middle-aged adults suffer from nighttime teeth grinding.

But over time, grinding and clenching can put extra pressure on the teeth, which could lead to shifting.

Not only that, but chronic teeth grinding can loosen the teeth, making it easier for moving and shifting to take place.

Shifting After Orthodontic Treatment

Orthodontic treatment, such as braces and aligners, can give you a straighter smile. But the changes might not be permanent, especially if you don’t properly care for your teeth afterwards.

If you fail to wear a retainer after orthodontic treatment, the teeth may go right back to where they once were.

Changes With Aging

Some teeth shifting is typical as we age. Over time, the face changes, which can affect our once-straight teeth.

One major change is in the jaw bone. When people grow older, the lower jaw narrows and moves forward, which can cause shifting and crowding in the lower teeth.

Our lips also tighten over time, putting extra pressure on the teeth. That pressure can slowly cause shifting and teeth misalignment.

How Misaligned Teeth Affect Oral Health

Straight teeth aren’t just ideal for a beautiful smile. They’re also important in staying healthy.

Here are some of the most common ways misaligned teeth can impact your oral health and hygiene.

Infection, Decay, and Cavities

Misaligned teeth can get in the way of proper oral hygiene like brushing and flossing.

This is especially true if you have crowded teeth. Teeth that are too close or overlapping are difficult to clean between, which can lead to plaque buildup.

This can then cause gum infection, tooth decay, bad breath, and even cavities.

Bone Damage

When teeth are misaligned, it’s easier for teeth to hit each other while speaking or eating.

This can lead to extra wear and even chipped or broken teeth.

Jaw Pain and Strain

If your misaligned teeth are affecting your bite, you may have to chew excessively or on only one side of your mouth.

But your mouth and jaw aren’t designed to work this way. As a result, you may experience jaw pain and issues such as TMJ dysfunction.

How to Avoid Teeth Shifting

If you’re concerned about teeth shifting in adulthood, there are a few prevention and treatment options.

First, always practice good oral hygiene to prevent gum disease and decay, which can trigger unnecessary shifting.

If you suspect you suffer from teeth grinding and clenching, especially at night, try wearing a mouthguard, which can protect your teeth while you sleep.

If you received orthodontic care before and were given a retainer to wear, be sure to use your retainer as directed to maintain your straight smile.

But if you’ve already noticed shifting and misalignment, it may be too late for these preventative measures. However, clear aligners are an effective and inconspicuous teeth straightening solution.

Adults of any age can use clear aligners to fix teeth misalignment, without the hassle or discomfort of traditional braces.

From Shifting to Straightening: How to Improve Your Smile

Teeth shifting happens as we age for a number of reasons. Now that you know what causes teeth to shift in adults and the oral health risks of misaligned teeth, it’s time to get the straighter smile you dream of.

SmilePath Clear Aligners are Australia’s most affordable teeth straightening option. And with these aligners, you can improve your smile from the comfort of your own home.

Take our free assessment now to find out if you’re a candidate for SmilePath Clear Aligners!


Suni, E. (2021b, November 29). Bruxism: Teeth Grinding at Night. Sleep Foundation. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/bruxism

Bruxism (teeth grinding) – Symptoms and causes. (2017, August 10). Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/bruxism/symptoms-causes/syc-20356095

Temporomandibular joint dysfunction. (n.d.). Healthdirect. https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/temporomandibular-joint-dysfunction