How and Why Do Teeth Move?

Your teeth are durable and feel secure in your jaw. But while it’s true that connective tissue helps anchor your teeth in place, your teeth will naturally shift over your lifetime. However, there are some cases in which teeth shift that can be the result of a problem with your oral health. So how and why do teeth move, exactly?

Mesial Drift

Mesial drift is the term that refers to the natural inclination of your teeth to shift toward the front of your mouth. This isn’t a sudden change; rather, it happens slowly over time. Mesial drift may have a purpose, however. Research shows that subtle changes in tooth position as the result of mesial drift can actually thicken cementum, which is the hard substances that covers your tooth roots [1].

Other experts speculate that mesial drift helps fill in gaps left by missing teeth, which may help you chew better. However, if you’re missing a tooth and notice teeth shifting into the space, your best bet is to get a dental restoration such as a dental implant to prevent unsightly gaps!


If you grind your teeth, a condition known as bruxism, your teeth are more prone to shifting as well as tooth enamel damage. Bruxism can not only cause uneven wear on the teeth, which can contribute to unnatural shifting, but can also cause your bite to change over time [2].

Bruxism is damaging to teeth and can cause gum inflammation that may also contribute to the feeling of loose or shifting teeth. Bruxism should never be left untreated, as it can eventually lead to tooth loss.

Not Wearing Your Retainer

For those who have had orthodontic work in the past, wearing your retainer is especially
important to preventing teeth shifting. Teeth will naturally attempt to shift back into their original positions following treatment, which is why orthodontists recommend to wear your retainer nightly for life after your treatment is complete [3]. If you’re not wearing your retainer, chances are you’re experiencing some teeth shifting, the results of which may not be immediately apparent.

You Have Gum Disease

Periodontal, or gum, disease is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults [4]. Gum disease creates an active infection in your periodontal tissues, which are partly responsible for keeping teeth in their place. When the ligaments that help hold your teeth in their proper positions become weakened due to gum disease, you may experience loose or shifting teeth.

Can Taking Care of Your Teeth Help Prevent Shifting?

Yes! Taking care of your teeth, especially when it comes to treating conditions that can accelerate teeth shifting such as bruxism and gum disease, can help prevent tooth enamel wear and unnatural bite changes. The best way to prevent teeth shifting is to always brush and floss your teeth, keep your bi-annual dental appointments, and never ignore signs that something could be amiss with your smile. And, if you’ve had orthodontic work, don’t forget to wear your retainer!


How and Why Do Teeth Move?
Article Name
How and Why Do Teeth Move?
There are some cases in which teeth shift that can be the result of a problem with your oral health. So how and why do teeth move, exactly?
First Impression Orthodontics