Could Your Teeth Be Shifting?

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Regardless of the cause, whether it's continual sleeping on one side, which can push teeth out of alignment; dental decay, which eats away at enamel and affects how the teeth fit together; or filling a cavity that requires the bite to be reworked, our teeth tend to shift over time, with the end result being spaces, gaps, crookedness and misalignment, all of which can be fixed. New York cosmetic dentist Irwin Smigel, DDS, says, "There is a range of options that can straighten your teeth. Some work in as little as an hour, while others don’t offer results for a year or more, depending on the extent of fixing needed."

Why Do Your Teeth Shift? There is a variety of reasons that teeth shift— genetics, age, grinding, bad habits and cavities are just some. If you can identify early on what is causing the changes, you may be able to prevent your shifting from getting worse.

Genetics: Even if you are born with straight teeth, if your genes dictate that they will shift at some point, they will,” says New York orthodontist Jacqueline I. Fulop-Goodling, DMD.

Cavities: 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:  New York cosmetic dentist Steven E. Roth, DMD, says that, as we age, the area between the teeth starts to wear away. “As this happens, the enamel thins out. And, because the lower teeth are inherently thinner, they wear out faster,” he says. 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 tension on the upper teeth. The continual thrusting affects the position of the upper arch, pushing it out of alignment.

Tooth Loss: “If a tooth is missing on the bottom, the tooth above it will grow downward since there is nothing there to stop it, and vice versa. Likewise, the teeth next to it will start to move sideways, too,” says Chevy Chase, MD, prosthodontist Youssef Obeid, DDS.

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