We expect for children’s teeth to be constantly shifting as a result of losing baby teeth and adult teeth taking their place. But children aren’t the only ones susceptible to moving teeth and shifts in your smile can happen at any age – even as an adult.

If you’re noticing changes in your smile as an adult, this can leave you feeling uncomfortable, and unsure of what this shift in your smile means. Keep reading to learn the most common reasons your teeth might be moving as an adult and what you can do to minimize the damage.

Why Your Teeth Are Shifting

There are a variety of reasons why your teeth might begin shifting and changing positions as an adult. If you can identify early on what the cause of your shifting teeth is, you may be able to prevent the shifting from continuing. The top causes of shifting teeth are:


When our bodies begin aging, the area between your teeth begins to wear away because your enamel thins. The lower teeth have less enamel than your upper teeth, so teeth in the lower jaw tend to wear away faster. If your lower teeth experience an increase in wear and tear, they are less able to withstand the force of the top teeth when chewing or when you bite down, which leads to shifting.


Your genes dictate if your teeth will shift during your lifetime. Even patients who are born with straight teeth and never have to have braces are at risk of their teeth eventually shifting out of line if they’re genetically predetermined to do so.


When you grind your teeth, you are putting tension on your upper teeth which forces the lower jaw to push forward. The constant thrusting affects the position of your upper arch, which pushes it out of alignment.


When cavities are filled, the composite can cause changes to your teeth and can also alter your bite slightly. Also, if you have tooth decay that goes untreated, it can spread to the gums and bone, eating away the bone that holds the teeth in place. This causes the teeth to become loose, allowing them to shift easier.


If you’re missing a tooth in the lower jaw, the tooth above it may shift downward since there is nothing below to stop it. The teeth next to the missing tooth will start to move sideways as well.


Improper oral hygiene can lead to plaque buildup beneath your gums, attracting bacteria and causing a periodontal infection. If left untreated, gingivitis can progress to periodontitis, which can cause the gums to pull away from the tooth, loosening it.

How To Combat Shifting Teeth

The easiest way to stay in touch with your oral health is to schedule routine exams every six months, and to schedule an exam if you begin to notice a change in your mouth. Together, we can determine the cause of your shifting teeth. One of the following remedies may be suggested, depending on the reason behind your shifting:

If it’s occurring naturally due to aging - If you have lost teeth due to aging, the adjacent teeth are likely to shift and cause your bite to change. If you lose a tooth, take action to restore it with an implant, bridge, or partial denture as soon as possible to avoid difficulties in biting or jaw pain.

If you have gingivitis or gum disease - The number one cause of tooth loss is gum disease, which can also be linked to a variety of other health conditions. Brush and floss regularly and schedule regular exams.

If you’re interested in orthodontic treatment - Regardless of the reasoning behind your shifting teeth, once the cause is under control, your teeth may have shifted so significantly that the look of your smile makes you self conscious. Orthodontic treatments like Invisalign can give you the restored confidence in your smile you deserve without everyone knowing you’re undergoing orthodontic treatment.

Are Your Teeth Moving?

If you notice a shift in your smile, we always suggest making an appointment with Dr. Okamura as soon as possible, so we can help you in determining what is causing your teeth to shift before it develops into a bigger issue. The sooner we can identify the cause of your shifting teeth, the sooner we can help restore your smile. Contact our Seattle office today to schedule an appointment!

Dr. Kim Dr. Kim

Dr. Kim Okamura

I'm Dr. Kim Okamura and this blog is a product of my love of dentistry. I dedicate it to all the patients I have served so that they may better understand my craft. The information here will give you and others the power to maintain and protect one of your most priceless gifts ... your SMILE.