Why Do Our Teeth Shift?

Many of us wore braces for years as kids. "You will thank us when you're older", our parents would say when we begged and pleaded to have them removed. But hey mom and dad, now we're older and our teeth haven't stayed in place. Didn't we nip this in the bud in eighth grade when we wearing braces? Why are our teeth all of a sudden not as straight as before? We set out to find the answers.

There are a variety of reasons that teeth shift-genetics, age, grinding, bad habits and cavities are just some. The end result can be spaces, gaps, crookedness and misalignment, but don't worry, that can all be fixed. If you can identify early on what is causing the changes of your teeth, you may be able to prevent your shifting from getting worse.

So, why are your teeth shifting?

Genetics. While you may have been born with straight teeth, your genes can dictate shifting later in life.

Cavities and decay. When cavities are filled, the composite (plastic) can cause changes to your teeth and occasionally your bite. If decay is not treated, it can spread to the gums and bone, eating away the bone that holds the teeth in place, and loosening them.

Age. The area between the teeth starts to wear away as we age and enamel thins out. Since our lower teeth are naturally thinner, they wear out the fastest. The more wear and tear on the lower teeth, the less able they are to withstand the force of the top teeth when biting down, causing shifting.

Grinding. Grinding forces the lower jaw forward and puts the tension on the upper teeth. The continual thrusting affects the position of the upper arch, pushing it out of alignment.

Tooth loss. The loss of a tooth will affect the growth and movement of the surrounding teeth.

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  • Kelly

    I've had braces for about 2 years and got them off last summer. I havn't worn my retainers and my teeth had shifted at the bottom and top. The top, however, is more severe and one of my front incisors is caving in. The bottom doesn't have too much change but it is definitely not as straight as before. I am 18 years old and do not wish to use my parents money. Will braces still be costly and how much would the typical treatment be if it were a 3-6 month treatment to fix the slightly shifted teeth?

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  • vishakh

    hi.. ihad braces 4 months back.. after they taken four tooths from my mouth..i had a feeling of change in my tooth positions..but suddenly yesterday i noticed that i had asymmetrical lips..for example when i open my mouth..there is a slanted pose and more left side is visible than the right..when i blow curent of air is not straightwards..its towards right side..everytime i put force to lips its always toward left is this beacause of the braces that i wear... pls say its part of the treatment...

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  • Ellen B

    Hey please help! In April this year, I got my braces off. I've been wearing my retainer, I wear it every night. However recently I've started to notice that one of my front teeth is kinda slanted. Like when I run my finger over my teeth I can feel it. However people are saying that they can't notice it to see. I really don't want to have braces again, I had braces for 2 years. The braces fixed an overlap on the top front teeth and all my bottom teeth which were all slanted. I'm really worried it this gets worse and develops into an overlap of the front teeth. I don't know why this is happening as I have been wearing my retainer since I got my braces off.

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  • felix

    please if I may ask, is it possible for a 17 year old to regain his/her teeth after deciding on remuving it due to pain, decay etc. I need an answer please, help me out. Thank you

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  • Jodi

    is it common to bite on the inside of your mouth when chewing after having 2 implants and 2 new crowns placed. There was 2 missing molars for over a year...Is this common...do I just have to get used to having teeth there?

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  • Nisha

    I have got my braces like a month before,just want to know if my 3rd molars erupt later then will my occlusion again shift? My centrals will again protrude?

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  • sophiegirls

    hey, im 15 years old and i have always had perfectly straight teeth untill recently one tooth has moved to become wonkey, why is this and how can i prevent it?

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  • Lee

    Hello, I am a female adult in her mid 40's. I had a tiny space between my upper front teeth and ended up consulting with an Orthodontist who put braces on my teeth. This Orthodontist made matters worse by misaligning my teeth. Now when I bite down, I primarily bite down on the left side. Before I proceeded with Orthodontics, my teeth fit together like a puzzle and my bite never bothered me. It is very uncomfortable to have a misaligned bite. Now I am experiencing jaw pain and headaches. My face does not look evenly shaped. I need to find an Orthodontist who can fix this malocclusion. What do you recommend? Desperately seeking a specialist to help fix my bite.

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  • Alina

    Dear Dr., I currently have braces. My orthodontist told me that due to my bottom teeth being bigger than average ( if I remember correctly), my upper row of teeth will (or might) move slightly forward. I was wondering if there is a way to prevent this. I have seen people with their front teeth shifted forward after they had their braces off... I hope my issue is not the same. My upper row is actually very straight, but the bottom teeth aren't. Although, I have braces on top and bottom. So I just hope that my upper teeth will not get shifted in any way that will make them look bad. I will ask my orthodontist next time, but I wanted to ask on here as well. Thank you very much!

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  • Jennifer

    What does it mean when a bottom molar is moving upwards? I am 58 and it's not impacted. It is falling apart also and causing a great deal of pain.

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  • view profile
    Dr. Jenifer Back
    Cosmetic Dentist - Sarasota, FL

    For anyone who has had braces, removable appliances or a retainer : A tooth that is mobile well after completed care is not normal. Please see your dentist right away and have a dental x-ray. Also bring any removable retainer or appliance to your appointment so that any adjustment needed can be made. Remember prevention is the best, see your dentist for frequent professional dental cleanings and check-ups to avoid serious problems like tooth loss.

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  • njw8691

    I have a question about permanent retainers. I have had my braces off now for 11 years with permanent retainers on the top and bottom. Recently I notice that my left later seems to move or wiggle when my bottom teeth hit the retainer behind the lateral. I was wondering is it possible that my tooth will eventually fall out for the constant hitting from my lower teeth? If so, do I get rid of the retainer on the top or is this a normal circumstance?

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  • Li

    Hi, i suspected the teeth has moved as i found that i am unable to floss between my two teeth. I have the habit of flossing (every other day) but i was suddenly not able to floss between two of my teeth today. I suspected two of my teeth has moved as they are so tight now that i can't get the floss in! Is it possible that the teeth moved over such a short period of days? i have no problems flossing all my other teeth. Any idea what's wrong?

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  • Braces San Diego

    I have the cavity in my two lower side tooth because of that I am suffering lots of pain in my teeth. Then I take advice of a dentist who give me dental treatment for my cavity & get rid of teeth problem.

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  • Kat

    I was bulimic for over 30 years. As a consequence, I do not have much (if any) enamel left on my teeth. This prevents me from being able to whiten my teeth because whitening causes them to be so painful that it is unbearable. Is there any way to whiten teeth that have little/no enamel on them?

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  • Babs

    I had a crown work up done, and shortly after, developed Trismus. I am constantly biting my cheek since then. It is extremely painful. Would a night guard stop the cheek biting? A Physician told me that my brain is programmed to my old bite, and a new crown may be slightly different, and hence the cheek is now in the way and the brain wants to chomps on it. Any suggestions how to stop the biting would be much appreciated.

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  • Sarah

    I have small spaces inbetween my teeth, if I decide to get veneers/bridging now can I get braces later?

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  • kellasia

    i only have one central incisor (#8) in my smile line . My other one is jammed up in my gums because the baby tooth that was there didnt come out til about 3 yrs after my other ones.by than all my permenant teeth were already grew in which filled the space of tooth #9 . Is there anyway i can get it brought down or is it a lost cause.

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  • Kathleen

    I'm an adult that sucks her thumb. I thought that, once you're past 20, your teeth generally stay in place, except in cases of disease at some level or another. However, for the past several years I've noticed my upper teeth moving forward and up and my bottom front teeth moving back a little. I'm assuming it's from my habit since the teeth are seeming to form to the shape of my thumb. Though it's more comfortable to suck my thumb, I'm concerned. Should I be? How "bad" can it get. I'd guess my upper front teeth are now about 5 millimeters or more ahead of my lower front teeth, maybe more (and they used to be totally normal looking). I won't stop sucking my thumb and, given that fact, what can be done otherwise. Should anything be done?

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  • view profile
    Dr. Niloufer Hamsayeh
    Cosmetic Dentist - San Francisco, CA

    The primary reason most adults have had their teeth shift is because retainers were not worn. Whether you have orthodontics as a child or an adult it is important to wear your retainers at least at night 80% of the time. This will keep your teeth in the right spot. For my patients I recommend Invisalign style retainers which can also serve as bleaching trays when the correct whitening material is added. This leads to a WIN-WIN scenario because you keep your smile Healthy and Beautiful-Bright!

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  • hope

    I had teeth pulled when I was younger, specifically highschool. I was supposed to get an implant but at the time my mother had been laid off and we lost our insurance. It's now been several years and my teeth have shifted dramatically. How do I go about fixing it and what is the process?

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  • Dr. Ann Marie Gorczyca

    If you need expert advice on teeth shifting, you need to be seen and treated by an orthodontist. 6 Reasons Why Teeth Shift following orthodontic treatment: 1. Inadequate retention. Retention following orthodontic treatment takes a minimum of 1 year post-treatment. Retention is also for life. this cannot be accomplished when orthodontic treatment is done too quickly. 2. Unstable tooth position and contacts 3. Lack of root parallism and proper root positioning 4. Lack of functional occlusion and occlusal trauma 5. Natural mesial drift or tooth loss 6. Periodontal bone changes Orthodontists have shown cases out of retention for 30 years with perfect occlusion. One thing for sure, if you want tooth stability, be sure to have your orthodontic treatment done by an orthodontist. When it comes to braces, retainers, or aligners, and orthodontist is the smart choice.

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  • D

    hi. I am 28yrs old, I have no dental coverage right now, but I'm hoping to try to get a loan soon to take care of my teeth. I have a weird bite. When I was younger my mom took me to the dentist, he said one side of my jaw was growing faster than the other and that I would need braces, but she couldn't afford them. I have to move my jaw to the left for my teeth to be aligned correctly. So my bite is slanted and it's very painful at times I bite my right inside cheek or I bite my lip when speaking and my speech is slurred at times. Will just getting braces help me or do I have to have jaw surgery? Thanks in advance for your time.

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  • Teri

    My mother had tried getting me and my siblings in to get braces, the thing is we didn't need them because our dentist said that our teeth are straight the only thing she didn't like is that we had gaps between our teeth leaving us with enough space that food wouldn't get stuck in between them, our back teeth are close together to give support but never have I had a cavity or the like, she just didn't like the spacing between our front teeth, I'm happy to know though that we didn't have to get braces since we've continued to have great results every dentist appointment and he recommended not to get braces since it would save our teeth alignment stress in the future. Now if only my younger brother and sister would stop getting cavities, but I guess that skips some kids since me and my other sister haven't had those problems. Must be genetics.

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  • view profile
    Dr. Ronald Goldstein
    Cosmetic Dentists - Atlanta, GA

    Joanna, Your bite can shift for many reasons and one of them is having even one tooth erupt into the mouth just a little bit either from the way you sleep, or if the bone support is insufficient. I think you need a good consultation with either a prosthodontist or general dentist knowledgeable with occlusion (the way your teeth come together) to get your bite balanced. You also need a good full mouth X-ray series to determine the amount of bone holding your teeth in. Another specialist who is quite capable of doing both procedures ia a periodontist and I hope your city has one of these dentists to help you

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  • joanna

    please help. I went to my dentist for a ROOT canal. After a few weeks i noticed my bite was off. I informed the dentist who stated it was do to grinding my teeth at night. I do not grind my teeeth. He never checked the bite. Again I went in to get my teeth worked on and informed him my teeth have shifted.Againg he never checked my bit. So today my teeth have shifted causing me to bit mharder on my left side,and now those teeth are loose. Ehat should I do???

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  • Lia

    I've had perfectly straight teeth all of my life but now, there is a small gap developing inbetween some of my teeth. (the teeth located a couple teeth away from the front.) My dad and his family have all had the same problem. No braces or anything before so I know it's just genetics. You can barely see it but I was wondering if I should do anythin about it. It is hidden and there's no pain. Also, my wisdom teeth are starting to grow in. Is there anything I should do?

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  • Kate

    I have had my invisalign off for 4 yrs. Recently, suddenly and drastically my teeth have shifted.I've had periodontal issue for the past 15yrs so I already know there is bone decay. So here is my question: Are permanent retainers expensive? Yes I know there are all different orthodontists who charge different prices. But I need a permanent solution - the invisalign cost me $5000. If I am going to spend ANY more money on my teeth I hope for something that will last more than 4yrs.Thank you for any input!

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  • view profile
    Dr. Ronald Goldstein
    Cosmetic Dentists - Atlanta, GA

    It sounds like you really do need your teeth repositioned through some orthodontic means because if they are becomming crowded they will get worse. Consider Invisalign where you will not see the appliances and the movement can be significant. AND if you are still in doubt seek a second or third opinion but try to get your mouth in the best positiion you can now especially because you have the rest of your life ahead of you and hopefully with a great smile. Good luck!!

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  • annonymous

    hey doctor...i am a 19 year old girl. Its the time of life when u are really concerned about how u look.Recently, i consulted a dentist and she said i need braces. I don't want to have braces on my teeth at this age it would look ugly. kindly tell me that if i do not put on braces will they get worse with time? My upper jaws teeth are a bit ahead of the lower jaws. thankyou.

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  • view profile
    Dr. Ronald Goldstein
    Cosmetic Dentists - Atlanta, GA

    Blue... It sounds like you may have a periodontal problem and I would suggest your dentist taking an X-ray to determine if there is bone loss or a periodontal problem. He or she will also probe the area around the longer tooth to see if there is disease present. Otherwise it could be a bite problem that needs to be checked out. So my advice is to have a thorough check-up at your dentist or a periodontist for an expert opinion.

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  • Blue in Ohio

    I am 50 & I am noticing one of my front teeth is now longer than the other. What is going on? :(

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  • view profile
    Dr. Ronald Goldstein
    Cosmetic Dentists - Atlanta, GA

    Cella, You obviously have a difficult problem and my suggestion is to get other opinions especially from a periodontist who deals with implants and bone loss. Matt, The bite guard is effective against grinding and clenching when you wear it but if your teeth are still shifting you may need to have them splinted together from the inside or other ways as necessary...but the fee you were quoted is average for the appliance...and a precision bite guard is much more effective than a store bought appliance. Roy, Sounds like you definitely need your teeth splinted in place so they do not move. The bite guard must be effective but not as precise as splinting which keeps the teeth from moving day and night.

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  • Roy

    Help. I'm 21 years old. I wore braces for a long time when I was a kid. When i removed the in the 8th grade the results were perfect. But my lower teeth especially the canine, started to shift to the right side, causing malocclusion. I wore braces again for a year, and removed them 2 months ago, my teeth are shifting back to the right again. why is this happening? Help

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  • Matt

    Please clarify the use of a night guard. Is it used to prevent teeth from moving, grinding or, both? I recently had four crowns replaced (7-10) and I was fitted with a mouth guard that, I was then surprised to hear is $500. To my knowledge, I do not grind my teeth. However, I am concerned about movement as, one of the reasons I had the procedure was because #9 had protruded (moved forward).I was expecting a retainer similar to that used following removal of braces to keep my new teeth aligned properly. If the night guard prevents movement then I'm inclined to purchase a much lessexpensive one from a drug store. Thank you for your clarification.Matt

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  • Cella

    I had been wearing an night guard for a couple of years with great results. When it loosened last year, I brought it in and the dentist added more polymer to tighten it. At the same time, he reset my implant crown which had fallen out again (it happened a couple of years before that). I started having pain in the area where the night guard was shortly after that visit, and extreme sensitivity in the general vicinity (the three front lower teeth). I brought the NTI in for the dentist to adjust and he put something on the teeth to allow the nerves to calm. The pain continued and the NTI became unbearable to wear as it slammed down those front teeth when putting it in. So I quit wearing it, the pain continued, my teeth suddenly became quite loose top and bottom, and all my teeth are shifting. The dentist recommended bone grafting (there is significant bone loss due to periodontal disease), plus flouride trays top and bottom to deal with the sensitivity and help keep the teeth from shifting. Plus, that implanted crown has once again popped off, this time it only lasted 5 months.I do believe this shifting is genetic as my sister suffers from this as well. Will bone grafting help in this situation? (I'm only 55 so I have a lot of years of wear yet to go.) And is it normal for that crown to keep popping off? The dentist seems to think so. What do you think about the trays?

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  • jess

    I recently went to the dentist due to 6 front teeth shifting, The dentist said it was genetics.( My mom Has the same 6 teeth shifted worse). He said nothing can fix the issue, cause it will always shift. so he recommended dental implants. I just had the fitting and now have Tempt Flippers I believe they are but I cannot take them out i have to leave them in for 2 weeks. They are uncomfortable. I feel the temps are bigger than my original teeth is this Normal? was the Implants the best route to go? or did he just take me for all my money?

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    Dr. Ronald Goldstein
    Cosmetic Dentists - Atlanta, GA

    If you are just recently biting your cheek when eating it can be caused by biting originally and then the tissue swells and you tend to keep biting your cheek and will until the swelling subsides. If this is the case then two remedies...first puff out your cheeks continuously to try to get the tissue out of the way and to shrink and second, do not eat foods that require biting until the swelling subsides. If biting your cheek is something that has been going on for some time it may be due to lack of what dentists call 'over-jet' or a horizontal overlap of the upper teeth being insufficient. This can be cured by either reshaping the front surfaces of the lower teeth in the area of your biting, or building out the front surfaces of the upper teeth...or both. Your dentist should be able to advise you which is best or even another solution.

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  • Carina Dae

    Your article on "Why Do Our Teeth Shift?" was very informative and certainly applies to my experience in many ways. However, after I finished reading the article I was trying to find suggested treatment to correct the problem to stop biting the inside of my mouth when eating. The problem is a very severe one I would like to remedy permanently without trading my teeth in for dentures. If someone has answers it would be great to see them.

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  • view profile
    Dr. Ronald Goldstein
    Cosmetic Dentists - Atlanta, GA

    Dear Anonymous... Thank you for your comments...based on what you are telling me I suggest you get one or two more consulttions to verify that you, in fact, have new cavities and if the dentist uses a laser detection device to see just how deep the decay is you can tell if the defect or decay has been there for a long time and just not diagnosed. In addition to laser detection devices, there are several other means of verifying if your tooth is decayed and how deep it might be. One other simple way is by a device that transilluminates your teeth so the dentist can 'see through the tooth' and decay can show up. Regarding your spaces, I would definitely go back to the dentist who straightened your teeth because he or she may have both diagnostic study casts or even photos that could show if they spaces were there or did they open up and if so, why. Hope this helps! Yours for great smiles....

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  • anonymous

    Dr. Goldstein- In my experience I have found that you're exactly right. Have had my Invisalign off for about 3-4 years, and if I don't wear my retainer for a night my teeth have shifted-- I guess I'm one of those people who will have to wear it for a lifetime. The only thing I'm concerned about is that I NEVER had cavities before my treatment, and when I went to the dentist he said I had SIX! Could my trays be causing this to happen? Also, just like the article says: my lower teeth have more space in between them now. I noticed the spaces right after an aggressive cleaning from my dental hygienist. Is it possible she scraped off the enamel between my teeth? Or, did she simply remove what had never been removed before? Dr. Goldstein, I'm a HUGE fan of yours (ever since I bought Cindy Jackson's book about 10 years ago)! You have a true eye for beauty. XXOO

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  • view profile
    Dr. Ronald Goldstein
    Cosmetic Dentists - Atlanta, GA

    Thomas, It is unfortunate that you had both laterals pulled because you coud have had an implant to replace the extracted lateral which would have been the restoration of choice. At this point porcelain veneers could be the best solution but economically direct bonded restorations using composite resin would be much less costly and probably your best bet.

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  • I had some slight shifting as my wisdom teeth came out, I had them pulled. when I had braces in the 80's one of my Lateral Incisor's was decayed and they pulled it. To give me an even smile they pulled the other Lateral incisor and pulled them all forward. I feel that my smile is too small because of this, I've thought about veneers, but I'm unemployed at the moment and cannot afford them. Would they be a good choice in the future to fill out my smile? I have always been very self conscious because of this. I would like to add that I am so thrilled that Daily Beauty has Physicians to answer questions, I really appreciate their input. This is an amzing website! Thank you SO much!

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    Dr. Ronald Goldstein
    Cosmetic Dentists - Atlanta, GA

    I have found that a major reason for teeth shifting to former crowded or spaced positions is that patients stop wearing their retainers. My suggestion to our patients is to plan on wearing their retainers for a lifetime at night and only take them out one night at a time and if the teeth are still the same when the retainers are put back in the 3rd night and they fit the same then the teeth might stay in position...and if not they need to wear the retainers to keep the teeth from moving.

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    Dr. Jenifer Back
    Cosmetic Dentist - Sarasota, FL

    One of the major reasons we see healthy teeth shift is grinding. A simple way to protect your teeth and prevent shifting is to wear a night guard. Advances in night guard technology have made them smaller and easier to wear. Of course we encourage good oral hygiene and seeing your dentist regularly, but a night guard may be just what the doctor ordered to keep your pearly whites perfectly lined up !

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    Dr. Niloufer Hamsayeh
    Cosmetic Dentist - San Francisco, CA

    There are a number of reasons our teeth may shift slightly. It is highly recommended to maintain a proper oral-health routine that includes brushing, flossing and rinsing thoroughly. Also, visit your dentist on a regular basis to make sure teeth alignment is right and your gums are healthy. Thanks for another insightful topic.

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