While some patients feel that their permanent teeth are too large or too long, others are concerned about their smile falling on the other side of the size spectrum. You may grow in a relatively small set of teeth as a teen, which is apparently a natural step in our evolution, or you may notice your teeth seem to get smaller as you’re getting older.
The appearance of shrinking teeth may be caused by actual loss of tooth material or other changes in your mouth that simply make them look smaller. Your dentist is the only one who can determine what’s affecting your teeth.
Wear and Grinding
If the individual teeth are actually smaller than they once were, the problem is most likely physical wear. Jaw clenching and tooth grinding, also known as bruxism, is the most common culprit, but extremely weak teeth can slowly wear away just from normal chewing and brushing.
A diet high in acids and poor brushing and rinsing habits also accelerate wear on the teeth. Your dentist will take measurements over a course of time to understand the amount of damage you’ve experienced. Crowns and sealants can prevent further damage but only after the original bruxism or other cause of wear is addressed.
Years and decades of chewing and repetitive forces change the appearance of the front teeth. By the time a person is in their 70s or 80s, the front teeth tend to look significantly shorter through either wear or a frontward tilt that makes an intact tooth appear smaller.
Many people lose some or all of their teeth by this age, so tooth loss isn’t a major concern as long as it’s primarily cosmetic. If a person’s ability to eat or speak is impaired, your dentist can remove the teeth and add implants to replace the most worn or tilted teeth and restore function quickly.
In younger patients and menopausal women alike, gum spreading and overgrowth is a common cause of teeth that suddenly look smaller and shorter without any wear or tear on the edges. Teeth turn translucent around the worn surfaces, so the problem may be the gums swelling or spreading and covering some of the tooth surface is signs of wear are missing.
Gum overgrowth is often triggered by an underlying infection or hormonal change. When gum growth has no distinct underlying cause, the dentist can remove the unnecessary gum tissue to restore the usual appearance of your teeth.
Some people think that their teeth look smaller after having braces removed or other orthodontic treatments completed. In most cases, this is simply due to the patient getting used to the appearance of the extra hardware and forgetting the true size of their original teeth.
Removing parts of the braces, such as the wire attachment points, does require some minor abrasion and polishing of the teeth. The orthodontist may also need to polish some corners or edges to help teeth fit together properly in the end. All of these treatments leave you with slightly smaller teeth, although few patients can truly tell a difference in the end.
Finally, if you asked your dentist to shave down or reshape teeth you feel are too large, the result will definitely cause the appearance of shrinking. Your dentist has to add a veneer or crown to make teeth look bigger, so you and your dentist should make the right decisions before committing to any dental reshaping.
Schedule an appointment with our team here at Kenneth Schweizer, DDS, PA, to figure out if your teeth are shrinking or just look smaller. Regardless of the problem, we’ll help you keep your smile healthy and beautiful.