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Can Teeth Become Crooked With Age?

By Lan Pham, Manjari Bansal
Continuous tooth movement and a number of other elements could cause crooked teeth later in life. Learn more about the factors that could affect the alignment of your teeth as you age.

It’s a common misconception that teeth only become crooked during childhood and adolescence. However, there are many factors, both preventable and not, that could cause changes in the alignment of your teeth during the adult years as well. 

How Your Teeth Can Change As You Age

It’s natural for the teeth to shift throughout life, according to the American Association of Orthodontists. Your teeth also undergo wear and tear due to a lifetime of chewing, grinding, and biting. Here are some of factors that could affect your teeth alignment as you age.

Everyday Wear

We use our teeth every day while eating and speaking. You might also grind your teeth while you sleep. So, as you age, force and stress on your teeth will naturally accumulate. 

“As people age, everyday wear takes a toll on their teeth. For example, chronic grinding over time causes shifting of the teeth,” Mahnaz Rashti, DDS, a periodontist in Beverly Hills, tells WebMD Connect to Care.

New Crowding of the Teeth 

“Teeth can become more crowded with age,” Mikaeya Kalantari, DDS, a pediatric dentist at Sunshine Smiles of Orange County in California, tells WebMD Connect to Care. “This is especially true when a patient has not yet had their third molars/wisdom teeth either erupted or removed.” 

“For various reasons, over time, teeth tend to tip back towards the tongue, decreasing the amount of space available in the dental arches,” Kalantari adds. 

With advancing age, the density of your jaw bone reduces, and it starts shrinking in size. This results in a disparity between the size of the jawbone and the teeth, which may lead to crowding or overlapping of teeth, according to the American Association of Orthodontists.

Poor Dental Hygiene

Preserving the cleanliness of your teeth and mouth should be a key part of healthy aging. If you’re not maintaining a solid dental hygiene routine or making regular trips to the dentist for cleanings, you could lose teeth due to decay or cavities.

“Missing teeth that are not replaced can lead to poor teeth alignment over a period of time as well. The teeth lose each other's physical support and shift out of place,” Rashti says.

Gum Disease

Another potential consequence of poor dental hygiene is gum disease. The initial form of gum disease is gingivitis, while periodontitis is its more advanced form. Gum disease typically arises due to bacteria-heavy deposits of plaque on the teeth. 

According to Harvard Health, gum disease causes receding gums, loose teeth, and destruction of the jawbone. These factors frequently lead to tooth loss among older adults, and can therefore contribute to increased misalignment of the teeth. 

Rashti also notes that periodontitis can cause the spacing between the front teeth to increase. 

Failure to Wear Retainers

“If you lose your retainers and do not replace them, your teeth will shift back to [irregular] spacing or being crooked, depending on how your teeth looked before you started orthodontic treatment,” Kevin Walker, DDS, an orthodontist and a clinical lead at Wally Health, tells WebMD Connect to Care.

If you had orthodontic treatment at a young age to correct your smile and later lost a tooth, you may need a new, properly-fitted retainer to keep the teeth in a corrected position, according to the American Association of Orthodontists.

It’s important to use your retainers for life in order to maintain your straightening treatment as you age.

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