Female dentist explains to a male patient the cause of his shifting teeth.

Shifting Teeth: Why It Happens and How to Prevent It

Shifting teeth are just a fact of life. No matter what you do, they will always be moving ever so slightly. While it’s normal, it’s also important that you address any teeth shifting issues before they get severe. 

Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why your teeth move and things you can do to prevent or fix it.

Why Teeth Shifting Happens

It’s not just braces that cause shifting teeth. Even if you did have them when you were younger, they’ll still end up changing position as you age (which is why wearing your retainer is important). Sometimes it’s just a result of getting older, other times it’s because of another condition that exacerbates that movement.


As we just mentioned, getting older in itself causes teeth shifting. That’s because they’re being used all the time. 

Even something as simple as pushing your tongue against your teeth while you’re talking, for example, puts pressure on them. That makes them move over time. Those small changes over a long period of time can add up to big changes.

There’s also the growth of your jawbone. When you get older, the jawbone grows forward and gets more narrow. Sometimes it can affect the amount of room your teeth have.

Gum Disease

Gum disease, also called periodontal disease, can lead to teeth shifting. The gums are weakened, which allows the teeth to move. It can lead to tooth loss if left untreated.

Teeth Grinding

Grinding your teeth, also called bruxism, is another major cause of shifting teeth. It often happens while you’re sleeping, but some people will also clench or grind their teeth subconsciously during the day.

That constant, extreme pressure causes your teeth to move over time. The grinding is also bad for your enamel.

Missing Teeth

If you have a missing tooth, the surrounding teeth will naturally move because of the extra space that’s available. 

The main concern here is if you lose some of your front teeth, also called incisors and canines. Things like wisdom tooth removal don’t usually have much of an impact in this area.

Ways to Prevent Shifting Teeth

There’s no way of totally preventing teeth shifting. You can help minimize that movement, though. All you have to do is maintain a good oral hygiene routine by:

  • Brushing and flossing two times every day
  • Using a mouth rinse
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Not using tobacco
  • Seeing your dentist regularly

If you’re already taking these measures to maintain your oral health, you should be in good shape. Your dentist can help guide you through any problems you may run into even though you’re doing everything you can to slow the shifting.

Fixing Shifted Teeth

Depending on how much teeth shifting has already occurred, you may need a dental professional to straighten your smile. The fix is going to depend on the cause and severity of the issue.

If the movement is being caused by tooth decay or gum disease, you’ll have to undergo treatment. Your dentist will guide you through that.

If your teeth have just naturally shifted a little too much, orthodontics like braces or Invisalign will get you sorted out. 

If you clench or grind your teeth, something like a night guard may be necessary. 

Finally, if you have missing teeth, you need to get that gap filled. There are numerous options to make that happen depending on what your situation is. It could be a partial denture, a dental implant, or a dental bridge. 

No matter what the issue is, make sure you talk about the options with your dentist and get it taken care of before the problem gets worse.