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Why Teeth Move

October 15, 2019
Posted By: Dr. Russell Schafer
woman smiling | Dentist Gretna LA

Over a person’s lifetime, teeth will shift and move. This makes sense because we see that kids as they grow, their jaws grow with them. Humans have three sets of molars for this reason that come out when they a child (six-year molars), a young teen (twelve-year molars) and young adult (wisdom teeth). If all three sets of molars developed at the same time, the mouth would have no room to accommodate them. Teeth can still move though even if no growth is happening and the reasons that they move are due to light forces placed on the teeth in a variety of ways. Light forces placed on teeth in specific directions are the basis of how braces work. While braces are the most familiar way to move teeth, teeth can also move because of the bite, because of bone loss, or because of pressure from muscles in the jaw.

How a Person's Bite Can Shift Teeth 

A person’s bite is the first most common thing that shifts teeth. It is common for me to see bottom front teeth crowded, and this happens for two reasons. The first reason is that the top teeth will constrict the area where the bottom front teeth can go. If the bottom front teeth are wider than the width of the mouth, then they will have to shift around so that they can all fit in the area. The second reason is that the back teeth will all push on the front teeth and try to take more space. By taking this space, the front teeth must shift to find new positions. The second reason is not as common as the first though. I will also see back teeth shift if I change the bite as well. For example, most teeth have three points of contact with the opposing jaw, one to the left, one to the right and one in the center and these three points of contact balance so that the tooth does not move. If something changes on the bite though and more force is placed towards to back of the tooth or towards the tongue side of the tooth, the tooth will start moving in that direction. Unfortunately, if this is left untreated, the adjacent teeth will move into the space that opens up and it is much more difficult to treat. To fix the problems caused by a bite, I often recommend braces to move the teeth back to the correct spot combined with a night guard afterward to protect the teeth from moving as well as to ensure that the bite is stable.

How Bone Loss Can Affect Teeth

The second most common reason for seeing teeth move is when bone loss occurs. In my severe bone loss patients who have advanced periodontal disease, it is not uncommon for me to be able to wiggle their tooth and for it to see like how a baby feels right before it comes out. For these patients when teeth are this loose and moving this much, unfortunately often times the only option is to remove the teeth and try to save the other teeth. Another common type of bone loss that moves teeth is when a tooth is removed and the bone associated with the tooth is no longer present. Even if the bite is good on the teeth adjacent to the tooth removed, because the bone is weaker on one side of the teeth, the teeth shift into this newly formed gap. To prevent this from happening, I often recommend that a new tooth be placed in the area either with a bridge, implant, or removable partial denture. If this does happen, then it can only be fixed again by using braces to place the teeth in the right spot and placing a new prosthetic tooth to fill in the gap.

How Jaw Muscles Can Affect Teeth Movement

The third way that teeth move is by jaw muscles applying pressure. Generally, the teeth are in a position that is the midway point between the tongue and cheeks for the back teeth and the top and lips for the front teeth. However, if someone is unable to close their lips or chronically breathes through their mouth then the tongue can push the front teeth forward. If someone has a retruded tongue, it is possible for the lips to push the top teeth inward as well. I do not often see the back teeth being moved much by the muscles unless someone has a strange tongue habit which pushes on one or two teeth all day long. To fix these problems, the first solution is again to use braces to pull things back to the right position and then fix the actual reason for why the muscle imbalance happened. This might mean getting a nasal surgery to allow for better breathing or a sleep apnea appliance so that a person does not sleep with his mouth open.

Contact Our Gretna Dental Office

It is normal for teeth to move as we age. Teeth move because they want to stay next to each other as the closer they are together the easier it is to chew and speak. If the teeth are moved in ways that are either unaesthetic or contribute to poor function, braces are usually the first-line treatment for the teeth. If early signs of movement are noted, generally the teeth can be more easily moved back into the proper position and routine preventative measures can be taken. If you are concerned that your teeth are moving, please call us at 504-392-5104 and we will help you.

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