Teeth Care

Why Are My Teeth Getting Shorter?

example of damage from teeth grinding and jaw clenching

Why are my teeth getting shorter?

Reviewed and updated for accuracy on 06/25/23

When Glamour magazine ran an article last month about preventative aging & the benefits of wearing a night guard, many became enlightened to one of the sneakiest signs of aging; teeth grinding and as a result, teeth shortening.

The wearing down of teeth is a natural sign of aging. As life goes on, our teeth gradually wear down, become more uneven and more susceptible to yellowing/staining. This can be a slow transformation or a faster one depending on several factors including a person’s genetics and teeth grinding habits.

defend your teeth against the daily grind graphic

If you notice that your teeth are appearing shorter, it could be due to several reasons. Here are a few potential causes:

  1. Tooth Erosion: Tooth erosion occurs when the hard enamel covering your teeth gradually wears away. This can be caused by various factors such as consuming acidic foods and beverages, chronic acid reflux, or aggressive tooth brushing. When the enamel erodes, it exposes the underlying dentin, making the teeth appear shorter.
  2. Bruxism (Teeth Grinding): Grinding or clenching your teeth, known as bruxism, can lead to tooth wear and make your teeth appear shorter over time. The continuous pressure and friction from grinding can gradually wear down the biting surfaces of your teeth.
  3. Gum Recession: Gum recession happens when the gum tissue surrounding the teeth pulls back or wears away, exposing more of the tooth’s root. This can make your teeth appear shorter as more of the tooth structure becomes visible.
  4. Aging: As we age, natural wear and tear can affect various parts of our bodies, including our teeth. Over time, teeth may experience some degree of wear, which can contribute to their appearance of being shorter.

It’s essential to consult with a dentist to determine the exact cause of your teeth appearing shorter. They can examine your teeth, evaluate your oral health, and provide personalized advice and treatment options to address the underlying issue.

Causes of the wearing down of teeth

Attrition, abrasion and erosion are all contributors to the shortening of teeth. This can have a less than desirable effect on your smile and self esteem! The shortening of teeth can even effect your bite.

Teeth grinding and clenching can speed up the flattening of teeth. This common subconscious act affects 10% of the population and can also make your teeth more vulnerable to cracking/breakage.

Do teeth naturally get shorter as you age?

Teeth do not naturally get shorter as a direct result of the aging process itself. However, several factors associated with aging can contribute to the perception of shorter teeth. Here’s a closer look at these factors:

  1. Tooth Wear: Over time, teeth may experience some degree of wear due to factors such as normal biting and chewing, grinding or clenching (bruxism), or abrasive toothbrushing techniques. Tooth wear can lead to a loss of enamel, which can make the teeth appear shorter.
  2. Gum Recession: As we age, gum recession can occur. Gum recession involves the gradual exposure of the tooth roots as the gum tissue pulls back or wears away. When the gum tissue recedes, more of the tooth structure becomes visible, which can create the illusion of shorter teeth.
  3. Bone Loss: Bone loss is a natural consequence of aging, particularly in the jawbone. When the jawbone loses density and volume, it can affect the support structure for the teeth. This can lead to changes in tooth positioning and alignment, potentially influencing the perception of tooth length.

While these factors can contribute to the appearance of shorter teeth with age, it’s important to note that the rate and extent of these changes can vary among individuals. Additionally, good oral hygiene practices, regular dental check-ups, and preventive measures can help minimize tooth wear and gum recession.

If you are concerned about the appearance of your teeth or have noticed changes, it’s recommended to consult with a dentist. They can evaluate your specific situation, identify any underlying issues, and provide appropriate guidance and treatment options to address your concerns.

Why do my teeth look shorter as I get older?

If your teeth appear shorter as you get older, there could be a few reasons for this perception. Here are some common factors that can contribute to the appearance of shorter teeth:

  1. Tooth Wear: Over time, normal wear and tear can affect the enamel, which is the outer protective layer of your teeth. Factors such as chewing, grinding, or abrasive toothbrushing techniques can gradually wear down the enamel, making the teeth appear shorter.
  2. Gum Recession: Gum recession is a common occurrence as we age. It involves the gradual loss of gum tissue, causing the roots of the teeth to become exposed. Since the roots are usually shorter than the crown portion of the teeth, this can give the impression of shorter teeth.
  3. Tooth Erosion: Acidic foods and beverages, certain medical conditions, or acid reflux can lead to tooth erosion. Acidic substances can erode the enamel, making the teeth appear shorter as the underlying dentin becomes exposed.
  4. Bone Loss: As we age, there can be a loss of bone density and volume in the jawbone. This bone loss can affect the support structure for the teeth, potentially altering their positioning and appearance.

Can aging-related changes in tooth length affect bite alignment and overall oral health?

Yes, aging-related changes in tooth length can potentially affect bite alignment and overall oral health. Here’s how:

  1. Bite Alignment: Changes in tooth length due to factors like tooth wear, gum recession, or bone loss can impact the alignment of your bite. When teeth become shorter or wear unevenly, it can disrupt the balance and proper functioning of the jaw joint (temporomandibular joint or TMJ) and the way your upper and lower teeth fit together. This can lead to issues such as malocclusion (misalignment of the teeth), bite problems, or an uneven distribution of forces during biting and chewing.
  2. TMJ Disorders: Changes in tooth length and bite alignment can contribute to temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD), which encompass a range of conditions affecting the TMJ. TMJ disorders can cause symptoms like jaw pain, jaw clicking or popping, difficulty opening or closing the mouth, and headaches. These issues can arise or be exacerbated by changes in tooth length that affect the bite.
  3. Oral Health Concerns: Altered tooth length and bite alignment can impact your overall oral health. When teeth are shorter or wear unevenly, it can create areas that are more prone to plaque accumulation, tooth decay, or gum disease. It may become challenging to effectively clean these areas, increasing the risk of oral health problems.
  4. Functional Impairments: Changes in tooth length can affect the overall functionality of your teeth and oral structures. Chewing efficiency may be compromised, making it more difficult to break down food properly, potentially leading to digestive issues. Additionally, changes in bite alignment can impact speech patterns, making certain sounds or words more difficult to pronounce.

How can I prevent tooth erosion and protect my enamel?

To prevent tooth erosion and protect your enamel, here are some tips you can follow:

  1. Maintain a Good Oral Hygiene Routine: Brush your teeth at least twice a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. Use gentle, circular motions and avoid brushing too vigorously, as aggressive brushing can contribute to enamel wear.
  2. Use a Fluoride Mouthwash: Rinse your mouth with a fluoride mouthwash after brushing to help strengthen your enamel and provide additional protection against acid attacks.
  3. Limit Acidic Foods and Beverages: Acidic foods and drinks, such as citrus fruits, carbonated beverages, and sports drinks, can erode tooth enamel. Limit your consumption of these acidic substances, and if you do consume them, try to rinse your mouth with water afterward.
  4. Use a Straw: When drinking acidic beverages, use a straw to direct the liquid past your teeth, reducing the contact between the acid and your enamel.
  5. Avoid Frequent Snacking: Frequent snacking throughout the day exposes your teeth to acids repeatedly. Instead, opt for regular, balanced meals to minimize acid exposure.
  6. Wait Before Brushing: If you consume acidic foods or beverages, wait at least 30 minutes before brushing your teeth. Acidic substances temporarily soften the enamel, and immediate brushing can lead to further enamel wear.
  7. Wear a Mouthguard at Night: If you grind or clench your teeth (bruxism), consider wearing a custom-fitted mouthguard. The mouthguard helps protect your teeth from the excessive forces of grinding, reducing enamel wear.
  8. Treat Acid Reflux or GERD: If you have acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), work with your healthcare provider to manage the condition effectively. Acid reflux can contribute to tooth erosion due to the regurgitation of stomach acids into the mouth.
  9. Visit Your Dentist Regularly: Schedule regular dental check-ups to monitor your oral health and address any concerns. Your dentist can identify early signs of tooth erosion and provide appropriate treatment or preventive measures.

Do shorter teeth make me look older?

The shortening of teeth can cause an aged appearance. The lips sag inward and the distance between the nose and chin shortens. Facial sagging causes a person to show less of their teeth when they smile.

What can I do to prevent teeth shortening?

There is one constantly overlooked anti-aging secret that works to protect your teeth from shortening.

Wear a Dental Night Guard.

How does it work?

By wearing a dental night guard at night you are protecting the teeth from wearing down and teeth flattening.

Can cosmetic dentistry procedures like dental bonding or veneers help with teeth that appear shorter?

Yes, cosmetic dentistry procedures like dental bonding and veneers can help with teeth that appear shorter. Both dental bonding and veneers are effective treatments for improving the aesthetics of your teeth and enhancing their appearance.

  1. Dental Bonding: Dental bonding is a procedure in which a tooth-colored resin material is applied and bonded to the tooth’s surface. It can be used to address various cosmetic concerns, including teeth that appear shorter. The resin material is carefully sculpted and shaped to lengthen the teeth, improving their proportions and overall appearance. Dental bonding is a relatively quick and cost-effective option that can be completed in a single dental visit.
  2. Veneers: Veneers are thin, custom-made shells typically made of porcelain or composite resin that are bonded to the front surface of your teeth. They can effectively change the shape, size, length, and color of your teeth. Veneers can be used to lengthen teeth that appear shorter, creating a more harmonious smile. The process usually involves removing a small amount of enamel from the front surface of the teeth to accommodate the veneers. Veneers are a durable and long-lasting solution that can provide significant cosmetic improvements.

It’s important to consult with a qualified cosmetic dentist to determine the most suitable treatment option for your specific case. They will evaluate your dental condition, discuss your aesthetic goals, and recommend the most appropriate approach to achieve the desired results.

Keep in mind that while cosmetic dentistry procedures can address the appearance of shorter teeth, they may not be the optimal solution for everyone. Your dentist will consider various factors such as your oral health, bite alignment, and overall dental structure to provide you with the best treatment recommendations.

What lifestyle changes or habits should I adopt to maintain healthy teeth and prevent tooth wear?

To maintain healthy teeth and prevent tooth wear, here are some lifestyle changes and habits you can adopt:

  1. Practice Good Oral Hygiene: Brush your teeth at least twice a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. Additionally, floss daily to remove plaque and debris from between your teeth and along the gumline.
  2. Use Proper Brushing Technique: Use gentle, circular motions when brushing your teeth, and avoid aggressive scrubbing, as it can contribute to enamel wear. Replace your toothbrush every three to four months or sooner if the bristles become frayed.
  3. Limit Acidic Foods and Beverages: Acidic foods and drinks can erode tooth enamel. Limit your consumption of acidic substances like citrus fruits, carbonated beverages, and sports drinks. When you do consume them, rinse your mouth with water afterward to help neutralize the acid.
  4. Drink Plenty of Water: Water helps maintain oral health by promoting saliva production, which aids in rinsing away food particles and neutralizing acids in the mouth.
  5. Avoid Excessive Teeth Grinding or Clenching: If you grind or clench your teeth (bruxism), seek treatment to prevent excessive tooth wear. Your dentist may recommend a custom-fitted mouthguard to protect your teeth during sleep or stress management techniques to reduce teeth grinding.
  6. Be Mindful of Chewing Habits: Avoid chewing on hard objects like ice, pens, or fingernails, as this can cause enamel to chip or wear down.
  7. Maintain a Balanced Diet: Consume a nutritious diet that includes foods rich in vitamins and minerals essential for dental health. Calcium-rich foods, such as dairy products, leafy greens, and almonds, help strengthen teeth.
  8. Quit Smoking and Chewing Tobacco: Tobacco use can stain teeth, contribute to gum disease, and increase the risk of oral cancer. Quitting tobacco will improve your oral and overall health.
  9. Visit Your Dentist Regularly: Regular dental check-ups are crucial for maintaining oral health. Dentists can identify early signs of tooth wear, provide professional cleanings, and offer guidance on proper oral care.
  10. Manage Stress: High levels of stress can contribute to teeth grinding. Engage in stress-management techniques such as exercise, meditation, or counseling to minimize its impact on your oral health.

By adopting these lifestyle changes and habits, you can promote healthy teeth, maintain strong enamel, and minimize the risk of tooth wear and other dental issues. Regular dental care and professional guidance from your dentist are essential for maintaining optimal oral health.

Can dental crowns or dental implants be used to restore the appearance and function of shorter teeth?

Yes, both dental crowns and dental implants can be used to restore the appearance and function of shorter teeth, depending on the specific circumstances. Here’s an overview of how these dental treatments can help:

  1. Dental Crowns: Dental crowns, also known as caps, are tooth-shaped restorations that are placed over the entire visible portion of a tooth. If your teeth appear shorter due to wear, damage, or extensive decay, dental crowns can be an excellent option to restore their appearance and function. Crowns are custom-made to match the shape, size, and color of your natural teeth, providing a natural and aesthetically pleasing result. They can improve tooth length, shape, and alignment while providing strength and durability to the treated teeth.
  2. Dental Implants: Dental implants are a solution for missing teeth. While they may not directly address teeth that appear shorter, they can restore the function and appearance of a tooth that has been lost or needs extraction due to severe damage or decay. Dental implants consist of a titanium post that is surgically placed in the jawbone, acting as an artificial tooth root. Once the implant integrates with the bone, a dental crown is attached to the post, effectively replacing the missing tooth. Implants provide a long-lasting and natural-looking solution that can help restore your smile and maintain proper bite alignment.

It’s important to consult with a qualified dentist or prosthodontist to determine the most appropriate treatment option based on your specific dental condition. They will evaluate your oral health, discuss your goals, and provide personalized recommendations to restore both the appearance and function of your teeth.

Keep in mind that dental crowns and implants are typically considered for cases where teeth are significantly damaged, decayed, or missing. Less invasive and conservative treatment options may be explored first, depending on the extent of the problem. Your dentist will consider various factors and provide you with the most suitable treatment plan tailored to your needs.

Flat Teeth and Chipping are common signs of long term teeth grinding and jaw clenching

Our Skin Is Nothing Without Good Bones, Muscles and Teeth Structure

Sometimes we forget that our skin is just a vessel for our bones and muscles. If a person undergoes changes to the teeth, whether they have them removed (and replace with dentures) or if the teeth have become much shorter over time,  it is common to notice sagging skin around the mouth and chin.

Physically, teeth grinding can have some long lasting effects. After years of wearing the teeth down, the face can develop a noticeable sagging appearance that cannot be fixed with anything less than expensive cosmetic work.

The Problem With Short Teeth 

It’s no secret that our teeth play a big role in the overall appearance of the face. The wearing down of teeth because of grinding and or clenching is a tell-tale sign of aging.

Simply put, teeth that are too short can absolutely make us look older.

Other notable characteristics that can occur from teeth grinding are an enlarged jaw muscle (protrusion), and stress lines around the mouth.

Check to see if your teeth are too short

Stand in front of a mirror with your lips slightly apart in a relaxed position. If you relax your mouth and just leave it agape slightly, there should be between 1-3mm of tooth exposure.

Do you see a little bit of your front teeth? If you do not, your teeth may be too short. This is not always a result of teeth grinding. This can simply be your natural dental anatomy. If you wish to have your teeth extended you can opt for direct bonding or porcelain veneers.

Some Good News

It’s preventative.

A night guard acts as a preventative to the effects of teeth grinding and teeth aging. Think of it as putting your teeth in a perfectly fitting case each night before bed so that they remain safe and protected against well…yourself.

wearing a dental night guard will prevent teeth shortening

Simply wearing a night guard at night will prevent your teeth from wearing down. 1 in 10 people grind their teeth at night. A custom made dental guard is far less expensive than restorative cosmetic work. Preserve your teeth & face & prevent teeth flattening the natural way. It’s just as important and routine as putting face moisturizer on at night to prevent dryness and excess wrinkles.

You’ve Decided To Wear A Night Guard? Great!

How to keep your night guard clean and bacteria free

As you probably well know, wet and dark places are a great breeding ground for bacteria. Your night guard can go from a nice clear to yellow and smelly in a matter of months. Make sure you store your night guard in its original case.

Clean with a soft toothbrush and a little toothpaste. Rinse thoroughly and store dry. Dry is the secret to a clean long lasting night guard. You do not want water sitting in your guard night after night. Additionally, Efferdent makes a really great denture/retainer cleaner you can use once a week to preserve the life of your guard.

Additional anti-aging tips

Take Care of Yourself In A Natural Way 

Consumers will spend 290 billion  dollars this year (globally) on anti-aging products. There is always a latest and greatest product that claims reverse aging results. We think the best way to keep that healthy young look can be achieved spending as little money as possible.

Some tips to prolonging life spans and living well include:

Other reasons to wear a dental night guard at night

Wearing a night guard has so many benefits! It prevents cracking and breaking of natural teeth and dental work. It will protect a new set of porcelain veneers, bonding, crowns & bridge work. If you wake up in the morning with jaw soreness, tension or pain this can be a sign that you’re either clenching your teeth at night or grinding them together. Overtime, this will lead to teeth flattening.

For more information about how to protect your teeth from teeth shortening, breakage, cracking and further damage, contact Sentinel Mouthguards today!


sentinel mouthguards author
Ashely Notarmaso

Ashely Notarmaso is the author behind the Sentinel Mouth Guard Blog. She is the CEO and founder of Sentinel Mouth Guards (Founded in 2012) Her long-time work in the dental mouth guard arena and her excellent ability to listen to customer concerns in this often contradictory field has laid the groundwork to explore night guard/mouth guard fabrication in-depth and address real concerns. With the help of her team, she has created a unique fabrication method that promises a great fitting custom oral appliance every time. Amazon’s choice for #1 mouth guard! Visit the online store http://sentinelmouthguards.com

Verified By

medically reviewed by dr lara coseo
Dr. Lara Coseo, DDS, FAGD

Doctor of Dental Surgery
Baylor College of Dentistry

Dr. Lara Coseo earned her Doctor of Dental Surgery degree from Baylor College of Dentistry in 2004, and she was awarded a Fellowship in the Academy of General Dentistry in 2014. Dr. Lara retired from private practice in 2017 after being diagnosed with Stargardt’s Disease, a degenerative retinal disease causing rapid central vision loss. Despite her inability to perform dentistry, she remains passionate about patient education and all aspects of general dentistry. She would love to help you build relationships with your patients through blogging and social media.

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