Monday, January 21, 2013

As You Read This, Your Jaws Are Shrinking

(Photo courtesy of
If it seems as you age that your front teeth are crowding a bit -- you’re not imaging it.  That’s because while some parts of our body may get larger as we age (such as our waistlines), our jaw actually gets smaller.  Over the years the jaw, particularly the lower jaw, can shrink as much as several millimeters in both length and width.  And while a few millimeters doesn’t seem like a lot, it can be enough to crowd front teeth and even result in a noticeable change in bite.

The shrinkage is all part of the natural aging process, and varies in degree depending on hereditary and anatomical factors.  Keeping (or not keeping)  wisdom teeth has no affect on jaw shrinkage; patients who have had their wisdom teeth removed may still find their front teeth crowding as they get older.

The discovery of jaw shrinkage comes from a Swedish University study that followed dental students for 40 years to determine if jaw size changed with age.  At the start of the study, which began in 1949, plaster molds were made of the jaws of dental students, most of whom were in their 20s.  Ten years later, the procedure was repeated, and in 1989, 40 years after the study began, a final set of plaster molds was made.  Scientists discovered that over the 40 years, the amount of room for teeth in the jaw did, indeed, shrink.

It’s just one more delightful thing to look forward to as we age!

If you are looking for a dentist in the Chicago area, please consider Wilmette Dental, a North Shore tradition in family dentistry for more than 30 years.  .  Feel free to call our office at 847-251-0085 or request an appointment online at

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