Why Teeth Shift and How to Fix It

Over one-third of Americans are unhappy with their smile, and more than 78 percent of Americans perceive adults with crooked teeth to be unsuccessful. There is clearly a lot of value placed on a nice, straight smile. While a large number of Americans do get braces during adolescence, let’s be honest, not all of us are great at using our retainers.

As a result, our teeth continue to shift and our centric occlusion–where our teeth touch and rest when our mouth is closed–changes. 

Why do our teeth keep shifting?

Teeth shift due to the every day forces that are acting upon them like your tongue and lips. Do you bite your lip when you’re nervous, causing it to come up over your bottom teeth? Try to swallow saliva without your tongue pushing against your upper teeth. It’s tricky. “And the average human swallows more than 2,000 times every day!” notes Dr. Tom Draper on his Oral Answers blog

Other forces causing your teeth to shift can include your labial frenum (the little lines that connects your lip to your gum), missing teeth that force your other teeth to shift in order to help fill the space, and finally, grinding or clenching of your teeth.

With so many forces, it’s no wonder we are ready for an adjustment by the time we reach adulthood.

Options for Improving Teeth Alignment

Fortunately, there are different options available to adults based on the type and severity of the malocclusion, or imperfect positioning of the teeth when the mouth is closed. A popular option for many adults is the clear aligner therapies, such as Invisalign, that are more discreet and tend to be faster than traditional orthodontics, like braces.  Some Invisalign treatments can correct a minor alignment imperfection in less than 6 months.

How Does Teeth Alignment Work?

With any type of teeth alignment therapy, the process is pretty straightforward: adhere something to the teeth such a bracket, and then use consistent pressure on the teeth to nudge them into the proper alignment over time. The way this is done and the time it takes varies on the type of alignment therapy used.

Traditional Braces

bracesWith traditional braces, a metal bracket is adhered to the tooth with glue. Then, thin metal wires are placed through the brackets that apply pressure which moves the teeth. The wires are changed periodically, each time helping to move the teeth into the desired position. The brackets and wires are reinforced with ligature elastic, or elastic bands whose colors can be changed (Remember getting different colored bands, like orange and black for Halloween?).

Traditional braces on average require 18 months to 3 years to obtain the desired result. There are ways to speed up the traditional braces process, however, but they come with mixed results. Some of these accelerated orthodontics include applying more force at certain times during the day, and stimulating bone remodeling.

Clear Alignment Therapy (Invisalign)

invisalign1Clear alignment therapy such as Invisalign is typically a shorter process. Rather than metal, Invisalign uses clear trays similar to teeth-whitening trays that are made out of a thermoplastic material.

Each tray is special-made to help move your teeth into the ultimate desired positioning. You change the trays every 1 -2 weeks. Depending on what kind of movement is needed to realign your teeth, you may need a few small brackets that are bonded to your teeth. These brackets help the aligner trays to do their job.

With clear alignment therapy, you wear the trays an average of 22 hours each day (including nighttime). You remove them when you eat.

One major difference between clear alignment and traditional braces is that traditional braces must be put on by an orthodontist, whereas clear alignment therapy, like Invisalign, can be done by a general dentist trained in cosmetic dentistry.

To find out more about whether clear alignment therapy is for you, schedule a free consultation with Dr. Jain or Dr. Koh by calling 201-501-8282.