Has your smile changed over the years? Our teeth work hard throughout our lifetime — so it’s no surprise that they change as we get older, just like the rest of our body.
But how and why does your smile change as you age? Dr. Buddy and the team want to talk about the top 7 ways you might notice differences in your teeth — from teeth shifting to gums receding to more oral health issues.
1. Teeth Shifting Closer Together
Can your teeth really shift? Yes, shifting teeth is a natural part of aging. It’s called “physiological mesial drift,” and is the teeth moving towards the front of your dental arch. Both your top and bottom teeth start shifting, though it’s more common for the lower teeth to start moving sooner than the upper ones.
“But why are my teeth shifting?” you ask. As we age, we experience bone loss and less bone density in our bodies, including in our jaws. A shrinking jawbone leaves less room for your teeth, making them crowd closer together and decreasing bone density in your jaw means your teeth are less securely anchored in your gums.
Crowding teeth can also come from issues unrelated to natural teeth shifting. Chronic mouth breathing, reverse swallowing, tongue thrust, or facial trauma can contribute to teeth moving throughout the years.
2. Overlapping Teeth
With teeth shifting closer together, you might notice some overlap. And overlapping teeth can get worse with dental issues like bruxism (teeth grinding) and missing teeth. Overlapping teeth can change your oral health, as well as how your smile looks and functions.
It’s typically harder to keep tight teeth free of plaque, tooth decay, and gum disease: your toothbrush can’t reach into those tight spaces between overlapping teeth. Our advice? If you weren’t a regular flosser, now’s a great time to start!
3. Teeth Shifting That Creates Gaps and Collapsed Teeth
Have you noticed gaps in between teeth? Teeth gaps start happening when there’s:
- A discrepancy between jaw size and teeth
- Tongue-thrust: pushing your tongue against your front teeth when you swallow
- Missing teeth from gum disease, tooth decay, or injury
Just like crowding teeth, gaps and missing teeth can change your face shape, smile, and your teeth’s functioning. Gaps can also make existing teeth tilt or collapse towards the empty spaces since your teeth’s natural tendency is to fill gaps.
4. Teeth Changing Shape or Length
Think about the many years you’ve been chewing food. It’s no wonder that your teeth have received some wear and tear over your lifetime! Do teeth change shape with age and all that chewing? Yep, a lifetime of eating and consuming sweet or acidic drinks wears down your enamel, which can make your teeth shorter. And if you’re prone to teeth grinding, your teeth can wear down even more.
The opposite also happens: your teeth appear longer. They haven’t actually grown longer, they just look longer because of gum recession. You might look at your smile in the mirror and wonder, “Do gums shrink with age?” Gum recession is normal in aging. In fact, one study found that 71% of people ages 50-59 and 90% of people ages 80-90 had some degree of gum recession.
But why do gums recede with age? You might like to know that, unlike shifting teeth, gum recession isn’t technically natural, but habits like aggressive brushing, poor oral hygiene, and smoking take their toll on gums over time.
Do teeth that change shape with age have an effect? Indeed, teeth that are shorter or have a longer visible length can bring about several problems. Like making your teeth more prone to chipping, cracking, and sensitivity, or making eating more difficult. You might also see changes in the symmetry of your smile or your face shape.
5. A Deepening Bite
As orthodontists, Dr. Buddy and his colleagues often get asked, “Does your bite change as you age?” Simply put, it can. The following are signs your normal bite might be deepening into an excessive overbite:
- Clicking or popping in your jaw joints
- Grinding your teeth
- Difficulty with chewing efficiently and effectively
When your upper teeth significantly overlap the lower teeth in an excessive overbite, the top front teeth can sometimes also protrude into buck teeth. And in the end, a deep bite or misaligned teeth can change your face shape. However, overbites and buck teeth respond great to orthodontics and the Davis Orthodontics team can correct a smile that has misaligned with age into a healthy and gorgeous smile.
6. Worsening of Existing Orthodontic Concerns
Have you had misaligned teeth or a bad bite your entire adult life? If so, issues like crowded teeth, gaps, overbite or underbite can worsen with age if you haven’t treated them.
Years of untreated orthodontic issues can contribute to oral health issues. Tooth decay, gum disease, and early excessive wear of tooth enamel to name a few. A bad bite can also put extra pressure on your teeth and jaw joints, resulting in TMJ pain. And misalignment can result in bruxism as your teeth try to stack together properly.
7. Teeth Shifting Without A Retainer
Modern braces have been around since the 1970s. So it’s quite possible that you were one of the many generations of teens who wore braces and then had straight, functional teeth throughout adulthood. Or maybe you wore Invisalign® sometime in the past 25 years since they first debuted in 1997.
In either case, you’ve had orthodontic treatment and wore a retainer afterwards to maintain your smile. But after many years of wearing it, you fell out of the habit. Is it ok to stop wearing your retainer? When do your teeth stop moving? As we mentioned earlier, teeth have a natural tendency to shift with age and fill gaps. They don’t naturally stop moving so it’s safe to say that not wearing your retainer can mean your teeth might start moving back to their original positions.
If you want better for your smile, give your Simpsonville and Greer, SC orthodontic team a shout. We can help you with a new retainer or adult orthodontic treatment to bring back your old smile.
8. Worsening Oral Health
According to Harvard Health, oral health issues tend to happen more in our later years. Even though we retain more natural teeth over age 65 than previous generations, dental issues still happen when we’re older. Gum disease, dental decay, oral cancer, mouth infections, and tooth loss happen at higher rates — and often with more severity — than when we’re younger. The ironic thing is that our nerve sensitivity dulls as we age, so you might not notice anything wrong with your teeth until you need serious treatment.
Get A Beautiful, Functional Smile With Davis Orthodontics
it’s not too late to get a straight smile you’re proud of. At Davis Orthodontics, we’re all about building a community of happy smiles… that includes kids all the way to grandparents.
So if you’ve noticed your smile changing as you age, contact us today at our Simpsonsvillle or Greer locations, or whichever of our eight SC offices is most convenient for you.