That beautiful orthodontic-created smile may not last a lifetime. According to research done at Malmö University, Sweden, our jaws shrink as we age, resulting in the very crowding we fought against in our youth.
The researchers had taken plaster molds of the jaws of their dental students back in 1949. Molds were taken of these same people in 1959 and in 1989. As time progressed, people had less room in their jaws. The difference was not great, no more than a millimeter in most cases. However, even that small difference can lead to overcrowding, particularly among the lower teeth.
Despite this new data, I wouldn’t put down a deposit at your local orthodontist’s office for thirty years from now. For one thing, this was a very small study. By the forty-year mark, only 18 of the original students were still available. For another, assuming you had straight teeth in your youth, the crowding in your dotage probably won’t be severe enough to warrant correction. Besides, as I've written before, there are more severe changes to the jawline that come with aging.
Instead, the dental researchers suggest that orthodontists keep in mind the eventual shrinking of their patients’ jaws when they prescribe treatment plans.