Are My Teeth Shifting?


Could my teeth be shifting? Many adult patients ask their dentist or hygienist this question. And if you think they might be, then the answer is, they possibly are! Teeth do tend to shift over time, which is a polite way of saying that teeth shift as we get older. Mesial Drift is the technical term for this phenomenon. Teeth do move slightly, and sometimes not so slightly, in the jawbone towards the center of the face and head.  Presently, there is no known reason for this. Dental professionals and scholars speculate that mesial drift was useful in pre-modern times when humans were more likely to lose several permanent teeth or cause significant wear to their teeth by using them as tools, rather than just for chewing. As teeth were lost to decay or gum disease or wear, the tooth behind it would shift slightly forward, closing the space. Since adult life expectancy was only about 40 years old or so, there was never a problem with overcrowding due to shifting.

Today, adults live into their 70’s and 80’s and may retain all or almost all of their natural permanent dentition. Therefore, the need for mesial drift is not necessary for function. It is now more of a nuisance than a physiologic help.

close up shot of crooked teeth

Mesial Drifting Facts

The teeth that are affected most by mesial drifting are generally the lower front teeth. Over time, adults notice that these teeth tend to overlap and crowd when they once were straight. In patients with spaces or gaps, the gaps close as the teeth move closer together. For some with open spaces between their teeth, this change may be a welcome surprise. For patients who experience crowding and overlapping, this occurrence can be frustrating.

Crowded teeth are harder to brush and floss and build up plaque and calculus more easily. In addition, when teeth shift into the open space where a tooth is missing, the likelihood that a dental implant can be placed in that area is compromised. In all cases, periodontal disease can become a very real concern due to the loss of jawbone and gum tissue.

How to Treat Teeth Shifting

What can be done to prevent this from happening? The reality is, not much. Other than wearing a retainer on a regular basis, there is no confirmed way to prevent teeth from crowding. However, replacing missing teeth with traditional or mini dental implants, removable dental partials or a permanent bridge can prevent teeth from tipping or drifting into an open space. The severity of how much your teeth may shift cannot easily be predicted.

The good news is, patients have options for how to correct this drifting when it becomes either a functional or cosmetic issue. At Grand Dental Group, traditional braces, Invisalign, or Six Month Smiles are all options for correcting a misaligned bite – click here to go to our Orthodontic’s page.  In other cases, veneers or crowns can cosmetically improve a patient’s appearance. When patients notice shifting and crowding, they should contact their dentist for an evaluation. Dentists and hygienists can offer patients a variety of options that will correct or reverse any undesired outcome of mesial drift.


In order to schedule an appointment please click here and find the location nearest you! The team at Grand Dental Group looks forward to helping you keep your mouth healthy!

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