Many people think that since adult teeth are permanent, they will not move or change over the
adult lifetime. This isn’t true—adult teeth can and do shift over your lifetime, whether or not
you had braces as a child or teenager.
Why does this happen, and what can you do about it? Here are a few things that can cause your
adult teeth to shift and what you can do to combat these unwanted changes in tooth position!
Mesial Drift Can Cause Shifting
Mesial Drift is a term used to describe the way the teeth move ever so slightly towards the
front of your mouth as you get older. Researchers aren’t sure why this happens, but suspect it
may have something to do with the shorter lifespans of our ancestors as well as tooth loss.
In other words, the remaining teeth may shift to compensate the loss of a tooth to make
chewing easier. Since our ancestors lived shorter lives, teeth shifting wouldn’t have mattered as
much. However, since people live well into their 80s and beyond today, teeth shifting can
become a problem.
Teeth That Received Orthodontics Can Shift
Did you wear braces when you were younger, or even in your adult life? If so, you’ll need to
wear your retainer as directed by your orthodontist for the rest of your life. Unfortunately, your
perfect smile won’t stay that way for long if you don’t wear your retainer.
Your retainer reminds your teeth where they belong, otherwise they’ll shift back to their
original positions and you could end up needing orthodontic care again. Teeth that received
orthodontic treatment are more susceptible to dramatic shifting because the teeth will attempt
to revert back to their old positions.
Losing a Tooth
If you lose one tooth or several teeth, shifting will happen naturally over time. You may not see
any changes right away, but eventually your mouth will move the rest of the teeth to fill the
space of the lost tooth. This could cause functional problems with your teeth as well as an
What Can You Do?
There’s not much you can do to stop Mesial Drift, and as long as you take care of your teeth, it’s
not likely that Mesial Drift will affect your smile too much. However, if you have had braces,
your teeth may try to move back into their original positions, making it imperative that you
wear your retainer.
If you lose a tooth, getting it replaced as soon as possible can help you avoid problems with
shifting. If you need to get braces again as an adult—or if this is your first time having
them—don’t worry. Having Invisalign or braces can help your smile look as natural and
beautiful as possible. Orthodontic treatment can also help prevent teeth from shifting with
regular wear of a retainer.
Have your teeth shifted since you’ve gotten a little older or since you had braces? Adult teeth
do shift, so don’t be surprised if you don’t necessarily notice this change over time. To prevent
shifting, wear your retainer, or if you need braces, consider orthodontics or Invisalign as an
adult. Your smile can still be beautiful for life despite adult teeth shifting!