Happy baby smiling at camera over dad’s shoulder

Teeth shifting: what causes it and how to treat it

It’s entirely normal for your teeth to shift with age. It happens slowly over time, often not causing any problems. In some cases, though, this movement can leave your smile less than straight and lead to a range of oral health issues later down the line. Here, we’ll take you through why teeth shift, how to prevent your teeth from moving and what you can do to correct a misaligned smile.

What causes teeth to shift?

While they’re fixed in place in the jaw, teeth are naturally flexible and moveable, shifting with changes in your jaw shape and bite position throughout life. In some cases, though, teeth shift noticeably – changing the shape and appearance of your smile.

This can be down to many other factors besides ageing, including:

Not wearing a retainer after having braces

Lots of people have orthodontic treatment in their teens to achieve a straighter smile, but find that a few years down the line, their teeth have shifted again. While a small bit of movement is natural, in some cases, teeth can shift back to their natural position. This is most likely due to not wearing a retainer according to your dentist’s instructions. If you don’t wear your retainer enough, or stop wearing it completely, eventually your teeth will shift back to their original placement, which is known as relapsing.

Everyday pressures

The constant movement of your facial muscles, tongue and jaw while talking, eating, smiling and sneezing can put pressure on your teeth. Over time, these minor stressors can cause your teeth to move.

Teeth grinding

Whether it’s during your sleep or because of stress, grinding your teeth, also known as bruxism, puts a lot of pressure on your jaw and gums. This pressure shifts your teeth in different directions, pushing them out of alignment. You may not be aware that you grind your teeth, especially as it may be while you’re asleep.

Missing teeth

If you have missing teeth, due to a tooth extraction or an injury to the face, the teeth that surround the gap may shift to fill it. When you lose a tooth, the jawbone beneath can also shrink as it’s no longer stimulated by the tooth root, making shifting more likely.

Gum disease

Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, causes inflammation of the tissue surrounding your teeth. Eventually, this can lead to bone loss around the base of the tooth, causing instability and movement. This can leave you with gaps between your teeth.


During pregnancy, the body produces a chemical called relaxin, which aids in softening ligaments. This can cause the ligaments in the mouth and gums to soften, reducing support for the teeth and resulting in them shifting.

How to prevent teeth shifting

There are steps you can take to prevent further shifting:

  • Regular appointments with the dentist and good hygiene: It’s important to visit your dentist regularly so they can check your oral health. They might notice signs of shifting early on or spot an underlying problem. How often you need to visit the dentist depends on your individual oral health, and your dentist will advise you how often you need to have check-ups. Generally, this is once or twice a year.
  • Treatment to address any underlying conditions: If your dentist notices any underlying problems in your mouth, such as gum disease, tooth decay or teeth grinding, it’s important to follow their treatment advice to get the problem resolved. Not only can teeth shifting be worse if these problems aren’t resolved, but they can lead to more serious conditions.
  • Good oral hygiene: Practising a good oral health routine can lower your risk of developing conditions such as gum disease, which can lead to teeth shifting. This includes cleaning between your teeth with floss or interdental brushes daily and brushing your teeth gently twice a day, with the bristles aimed at 45 degrees towards the gum line.
  • Take extra care if you’re pregnant: Pregnancy can make you more susceptible to teeth shifting, and increased hormones during pregnancy can make your gums more susceptible to plaque too, which may lead to inflammation and bleeding. See your dentist regularly and make sure you brush your teeth thoroughly using a fluoride toothpaste. This will help protect your teeth and gums while they’re more vulnerable.
  • Consider implants for missing teeth: Dental implants are a long-lasting solution that can fill the gap your missing tooth was exposing and prevent further shifting. There are many options for replacing missing teeth, but dental implants are the only solution to stimulate the jawbone and help prevent bone loss, which can shift teeth.
  • Wear a retainer as advised by your dentist: Following any orthodontic treatment, it’s vital that you wear your retainer at the correct times, for as long as your orthodontist recommends, to retain your straighter smile. If you don’t, it’s likely your teeth will relapse to their original position.

How to correct shifted teeth

If your teeth have moved and you’re unhappy with the way they look, or they’re causing you pain or discomfort, you may want to consider orthodontic treatment.

If you previously had braces but didn’t wear your retainer, it’s often possible to have secondary treatment. There’s a variety of options for straightening teeth beyond traditional fixed braces, including discreet, near-invisible options, depending on the look you want to achieve, your budget and your lifestyle.

During your initial consultation, your dentist will be able to recommend suitable options, based on your needs, the severity of your alignment issues and your individual oral health. These may include:

  • Invisalign treatment: Systems like near-invisible Invisalign aligners are discreet and removable, so teeth straightening can fit seamlessly into your lifestyle.
  • Lingual braces: Lingual braces, made up of discreet brackets and wires, are also known as ‘hidden braces’ because they’re fitted to the back of your teeth rather than on the front surface.
  • Ceramic braces: Ceramic braces are similar to traditional fixed braces, but use clear or tooth-coloured wires and brackets, so they’re less noticeable when they’re attached to your teeth.

Considering orthodontic treatment?

If you’re considering orthodontic treatment or want to talk through your options for correcting shifted teeth, use our enquiry form to contact your nearest practice and they’ll be happy to help. Alternatively, search for your nearest practice offering orthodontics, below.

General enquiry

We recognise that when you give us personal information (which includes health information) you’re trusting us to take good care of it.

Please see our privacy policy for more information about how we collect, use and protect your data. If you don’t want to receive marketing about Bupa products and services that we think are relevant to you, please contact us at [email protected].


Successfully submitted

Search for your local practice

Content is loading