A Troublesome Tooth Trend: The Dangers Of Shifting Teeth And What You Can Do About It

A Troublesome Tooth Trend: The Dangers Of Shifting Teeth And What You Can Do About It

If you’ve ever had braces, you know how immovable teeth can be. After all, why else would braces cause so much pain? What you may not know is that teeth shifting can occur naturally and it’s normal– to an extent.

Mesial drift, for instance, is the tendency for your teeth to drift toward the front of your mouth as you age. According to a 2006 study, this is normal as you age and is even found in children 16 years and younger. Tooth drift may be normal but it can also lead to tooth loss.

So you may be wondering how to prevent tooth loss due to shifting if it’s a normal process. Teeth straightening with clear, nearly invisible braces can help prevent losing teeth because of severe shifts. That’s why I’m here to tell you with this in-depth guide to everything you need to know about shifting teeth and how an orthodontist can help.

Want to set your teeth up for future success? Check out this guide to start getting your perfect smile.

How to Know if You Have Shifting Teeth

The most obvious way to tell if your teeth are shifting is to say cheese.

Get in front of a mirror and check out your smile. If you have any crooked or overcrowded teeth, chances are you have experienced tooth shift. Unsurprisingly, that’s the majority of people in the world.

Can’t tell? Here are some questions to ask yourself to find out if you still have tooth shifting.

Do your upper teeth slightly overlap your lower ones?

Overbites and underbites lead to migrating teeth. While a slight overbite is completely normal, severe overbite or any sign of underbite may cause tooth shifting.

Problems with bite don’t just cause tooth loss, though. People with underbites or severe overbites may also experience:

  • Tooth wear
  • Chipped teeth
  • TMJ
  • Snoring
  • Speech impediments
  • Gum disease

You can correct severe overbites with metal braces. But mild to moderate overbites and underbites can be more easily and comfortably corrected with retainers or clear aligners like Invisalign.

Do your teeth meet on both sides when you smile and bite down?

Another issue with bite, if your teeth don’t meet when you bite down then your teeth have shifted. This is called malocclusion and is often due to migrating teeth.

Like over and underbites, malocclusion can cause a cascade of negative effects in addition to tooth loss. For example, decaying teeth, worn enamel, and jaw pain are common.

Most malocclusions can be fixed with traditional orthodontics. When they go untreated, though, these can turn into severe open bites. For instance, an anterior open-bite is a severe malocclusion that is often treated with surgery or other painful and invasive procedures.

Is there pain or discomfort when you smile and bite down?

Like many other medical conditions, pain is never a good sign. This especially true of your mouth since discomfort is often a sign of migrating teeth.

Aside from tooth loss, mouth soreness often means overcrowded teeth, which can lead to even more tooth shifting. Tooth loss and gum disease are also seen in people with mouth pain.

Why Do Teeth Shift?

If the answer to any of those is yes, you probably have or are experiencing tooth shift. When teeth shift out of alignment, it causes problems with your bite. The worst part is that these problems can actually lead to more tooth migration.

But why do teeth migrate? After all, you need your teeth to eat and smile.

The ligaments that attach your teeth to your jaws are strong, but they’re also flexible. That’s why braces and clear aligners work. But the reason for tooth shift is actually to protect your smile from damage.

If you were to fall on your face or get hit in the mouth with a baseball, your teeth have 2 options: shift or fall out. Small amounts of flexibility allow your teeth to adjust to traumas like these. That way, you avoid completely losing a tooth.

But this isn’t the only reason. Tooth shifts can also occur due to:

  • Stress
  • Loss of enamel
  • Crooked or crowded teeth
  • Incorrect bite
  • Missing teeth

You can even experience tooth shift after having a cavity filled. When you get a filling at the dentist, your bite subtly changes. This change is small but, over time, it can cause severe shifting of both the filled tooth and the surrounding teeth.

Here are some more reasons for tooth drift.

Grinding Teeth

Also known as Bruxism, grinding your teeth at night without the use of a mouth guard is yet another factor associated with tooth migration.

Grinding puts tension on upper teeth, forcing your bite to misalign and cause you further problems. Children and teens often experience bruxisms while their teeth are still moving. But most kids outgrow it.

If you’re wondering if your child’s teeth grinding may cause tooth shifting, look for these symptoms:

  • Trouble sleeping
  • jaw soreness
  • Headaches
  • Tooth pain or sensitivity
  • Enamel wear
  • Damage to gums

Loud and persistent grinding is also a warning sign that your child’s nighttime teeth grinding is not normal. Keep in mind, though, that bruxisms are often caused by stress. Try to find out the reason for your child’s discomfort and see if that fixes the problem first.

If not, it’s time to head to the orthodontist.


Shifting teeth may just be in your genetics.

Studies show that there are genes that determine the type of bite you have. Misaligned bites are often due to the size of your lower jaw. If your genes passed along a wider bottom jaw than the top, you will probably experience tooth migration due to genetics.

Studies show that the Jagged 2 gene determines the structure and shape of your teeth. The gene is necessary for healthy teeth formation, which means anyone missing the gene may experience poor tooth development.

Similarly, a gene called beta defensin1 helps fight mouth germs. People who are born without this gene experience tooth decay and gum disease at a higher rate than average. That’s even when controlled for healthy eating and good dental hygiene.

After Removal of Braces

Many people report moving teeth after their wire braces are removed.

At first glance, this doesn’t seem to make sense. You paid thousands and spent countless hours in pain to get those suckers straight. How could your teeth start shifting the moment you get your braces off?

But remember– the ligaments that hook your teeth to your jawbone are flexible. After being prodded and pushed around by wires and bands, those ligaments have nothing to hold them in place anymore. That’s when they start their normal process of shifting all over again.

Wearing retainers after having your braces or Invisalign removed can help prevent severe shifting. But some people require corrective aligners in more severe cases.

What to do About Shifting Teeth

If you want to save your smile, you may be wondering how you can stop teeth from falling out due to tooth shifts.

Prevention and correction are your best options. While prevention helps teeth from moving in the first place, correction can adjust teeth from shifting more than they already have. Orthodontics can help in both cases.

Orthodontists specialize in correcting problems using aligners like retainers, wire braces, and Invisalign. This also helps prevent teeth from shifting further, which can cause tooth loss and other serious issues.

Keep in mind that prevention will be easier, faster, and less painless than correction.


The best way to prevent shifting teeth is to practice good dental hygiene and eat healthy foods.

A healthy diet includes limiting acidic foods, cutting down on sugar and carbs, and chewing sugarless gum. Sugary foods cause cavities that may require fillings. And you already know fillings may lead to tooth shifting.

Meanwhile, acidic foods can erode enamel. This weakens teeth and makes it easier for tooth drift to occur.

Make sure you’re also practising a daily dental hygiene strategy. For a pearly white smile, orthodontists recommend you:

  • Brush at least twice a day
  • Floss and gargle once a day
  • See your dentist twice a year

Yet good dental hygiene and a healthy diet alone won’t always prevent you from having shifting teeth.

As you’ve already learned, genetics can lead to shifting teeth even if you take good care of your mouth. People who sleep on their stomach or have bad posture are also prone to tooth drift regardless of their oral habits.

So what can you do to prevent severe shifting and ultimate tooth loss?

Invisalign is the orthodontist recommended solution for preventing tooth shift before it happens. These clear aligners delicately push your teeth into place so that you have a straighter, less crowded smile.

Invisalign is also recommended for correcting teeth that have already shifted.


If your teeth are already showing signs of shifting then you need to correct them before they start falling out.

There are multiple options for people who want to correct migrating teeth. They differ in the severity of correction needed and the amount of time a person has to wear them for.

Here are a few methods to help correct shifting before it causes tooth loss:

  • Retainers
  • Mouthguards
  • Braces

Braces are traditionally used for severe irregularities in teeth while retainers are for less serious issues usually related to cosmetics. On the other hand, mouthguards are used to prevent shifting due to nighttime teeth grinding.

But if you have an Invisalign dentist, you may be able to correct shifting teeth with invisible aligners. Like retainers, Invisalign is usually reserved for less severe cases. But some orthodontists specialize in using clear aligners to correct more severe irregularities.

Here are some things you need to know about Invisalign.

All About Invisalign

More than 4 million patients worldwide are currently using Invisalign to straighten their smiles.

Invisalign works for both adults and youth. It can take less than a year to 18 months to straighten shifting teeth with clear aligners.

Like metal braces, clear aligners may cause mild pain and discomfort when you’re fit for a new tray. However, many people report Invisalign is much less painful than metal braces and that the pain goes away faster.

2007 study also found that Invisalign does a better job at aligning teeth than traditional braces. Both the alignment of all teeth and the specific alignment of mandibular and maxillary anterior alignments were treated better with clear aligners.

Overbites, gaps, and even underbites are treatable with clear aligners. Invisalign works well for open bites, too, which are teeth that don’t meet on both sides when you bite down. But unlike traditional metal braces, Invisalign moves only certain teeth to better control the ultimate result.

While you can see a general practitioner to get Invisalign, a 2011 study showed that results are better when you go to an orthodontist.

The study found that orthodontists have usually been Invisalign-certified for a longer period of time and have more experience with the technology. And this made a large difference especially for patients with more extreme cases of malocclusion and shifting teeth.

Orthodontics in South East London

So you have shifting teeth but you don’t want to lose them. Now what?

It’s time to schedule yourself an appointment with an orthodontist. While traditional orthodontics can work, an Invisalign clear aligner is the best solution for tooth drift.

Looking for Invisalign in London? Pura dental care is a dental clinic in Eltham, South east London. Schedule an appointment with us today to talk about your options for getting a straighter, more beautiful smile.


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