Did you know that while you are reading this, there are many different forces acting on your teeth? I’m guessing that right now your tongue is probably slightly resting on the the back of your lower front teeth and the inside of your lips are resting against your front teeth. If you took a magic school bus ride into the average person”s mouth, you’d probably find the same thing.
Did you know that both of these forces along with other forces can affect how your smile looks? In this article, I will go over some of the forces that act on your teeth and how you can make sure that they don’t negatively affect your smile.
Forces that Constantly Try to Move Your Teeth
As I mentioned above, your lips push your teeth into your mouth while your tongue pushes your teeth out. They eventually find an equilibrium known as the neutral position.
Normally these forces are good. For example, these forces help keep your teeth arranged in a symmetrical arch. These forces can also help push permanent lower front teeth out away from the tongue when the permanent teeth come in behind the baby teeth.
However, if the forces in your own mouth get out of hand, they can push your teeth into abnormal positions.
Did you know that the average human swallows more than 2,000 times every day! If you go ahead and swallow right now, you’ll notice that your tongue pushes against your upper front teeth. As long as you don’t push excessively on your front teeth, usually everything is fine.
Some people have habits that cause them to hold their tongue between their teeth all the time or to push their tongue out excessively when they swallow.
The forces that your lips apply to your teeth can become a problem if you develop certain habits. One such habit is tucking your lower lip behind your upper teeth. This is especially common in younger children and people who bite their lips when they get nervous.
The labial frenum has been accused of moving the front two teeth apart after they are perfectly aligned with braces. For this reason, some people choose to cut away the frenum by getting a frenectomy.
Forces From Your Teeth
Other teeth (or the lack thereof) can move your teeth. Normally when you bite together, your teeth touch and rest in a certain position. This position is known as centric occlusion. Normally, the top teeth oppose the bottom teeth and keep them in check. However, when you lose a tooth, things get interesting!
When you lose a tooth, the teeth drift to fill the space. The teeth on either side of the lost tooth move, as will the tooth that opposes it. For example, if you lost a lower tooth, the tooth on the upper jaw that normally hits it would start to grow down slightly to fill in the space and the adjacent teeth to the lost tooth would start to lean in towards the empty gap.
Certain habits involving tooth-to-tooth contact, such as clenching or grinding your teeth could also cause movement of your teeth.
Another force that can move your teeth is described in Ten Cate’s Oral Histology textbook. It talks about the back teeth pushing forward ever so slightly against each other, which causes a gradual forward movement of your teeth as you get older.
As you can see, there are many different forces that are constantly acting on your teeth that could cause them to move. In addition to these internal forces from your own body, teeth can also move due to external forces such as braces, pipe smoking, or musical instruments. I will discuss these forces in more detail in a future article.
Do you have any questions, comments, or concerns about tooth movement caused by these forces? I’d love to hear what you have to say in the comments section below. Thanks for reading!