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Do wisdom teeth growing in cause your teeth to shift?

Updated: Feb 24, 2022

It is a common misconception that wisdom teeth growing into your mouth cause your teeth to shift. In fact, in a recent review of studies in 2018, 83% of studies showed the opposite – that lower teeth become crowded regardless of whether wisdom teeth are present or missing. Another study showed that there was no difference in crowding when people had four, three, two or even no wisdom teeth!

The reason people used to believe this has to do with how your teeth become crowded over time. It is natural over your lifetime for teeth to shift forward, even without wisdom teeth. This process is called mesial drift, and it occurs due to how your bite pushes on your teeth during chewing and due to the natural growth of your jaw even as an adult. This is especially common in young adults in their early 20s. Studies show that your lower jaw (mandible) continues to grow slightly during this time. This often causes the lower incisors to bunch up in the front of your mouth as you age. This process happens around the same time that your wisdom teeth grow in, hence the confusion.

The best solution to this problem is lifetime retention. All patients who receive orthodontic treatment need to continue wearing their retainers for the rest of their life at night. That is the only way to ensure your teeth stay straight. Some patients choose to get a lower fixed retainer to help prevent this common problem from occurring. This is a thin wire that is placed behind your lower incisors to hold them in position (see below).

The wire prevents mesial drift from occurring, even if you don't wear your retainer. The chances that this can happen vary in different individuals, and your orthodontist can help determine if you are at risk.

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