The Impression

Yes, Your Teeth Shift When You Get Older

Here's why, and what you can do about it.

Tracy Middleton
Contributing Writer

At my last dental cleaning, I mentioned to my hygienist that I’d noticed that my two bottom front teeth had started to overlap. “Oh yes, that happens to lots of people as they get older,” she said. At 42, I’ve come to peace with my perpetually achy lower back and deepening frown lines. Now this, too?

Aging is indeed likely to blame for my slightly snaggle-toothed smile, according to Kendall Park, New Jersey-based orthodontist Richard D’Avanzo, DMD.

“When you age, you get gray, wrinkles, and your teeth shift,” Dr. D’Avanzo says. The change happens gradually, but most people start to notice it in their 30s and 40s. “When everything else starts to go,” jokes Dr. D’Avanzo.

Even people who had orthodontic intervention when they were younger notice their teeth shifting with age. “As soon as braces are removed or you stop wearing a retainer, the teeth start to move again,” says Dr. D’Avanzo.

Why do teeth shift with age?

“The mouth is a biological system where bones and ligaments constantly move and break down. It’s never static,” Dr. D’Avanzo says. As we age, our teeth—especially the ones on the bottom—have a tendency to move towards the front of the mouth. The migration causes crowding—click here for more on how Candid clear aligners can treat crowded teeth—which can become an aesthetic and functional problem. “When teeth are bunched up, it’s harder to floss between them, leaving them more prone to plaque buildup,” Dr. D’Avanzo notes.

What causes for shifting teeth in adults?

The support structures that once kept your teeth in place—the ligaments, muscles, bones, and tissue in and around the mouth—can weaken over time. 

Pregnancy can also cause your teeth to shift

Writer Gretchen Voss doesn’t bite her nails or grind her teeth. But she did something in her 30s that her orthodontist suspects caused the gap to open up between her top two front teeth: She had kids. “My orthodontist told me that my teeth moving was probably the result of hormones from pregnancy,” says Gretchen. “Stretch marks, deflated boobs, and crooked teeth. I mean, seriously?”  

Hormonal shifts during pregnancy can increase blood flow to the gums, making them more sensitive and raising the risk of inflammation. That inflammation can cause a break down of those bones and ligaments which hold teeth in place, says Dr. D’Avanzo. It can even cause tooth loss and chronic diseases, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Relaxin, a chemical that softens joints and ligaments during pregnancy can also soften periodontal ligaments, making teeth more susceptible to shifting. (For more on the connection between pregnancy and dental health, click here.)

What can adults do to straighten shifted teeth?

As of 2016, there were nearly 1.7 million adults being treated by U.S. and Canadian members of the American Association of Orthodontists. Dr. D’Avanzo estimates about 40 percent of his patients are adults.

When it comes to shifting teeth, Candid clear aligners can treat most mild-to-severe issues with your bite. In fact, one of the most common issues that our network of orthodontists addresses is crowded front teeth. To safely and effectively treat crowding, a Candid network orthodontist will prescribe a treatment that expands your lower arch, moving your molars back and creating space and then moving crowded teeth back into position. 

Take this quick survey to find out if you’re a candidate for Candid’s orthodontist-led treatment.


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