A loose tooth in a child often signals a healthy rite of passage. Once a person reaches adolescence, however, a loose tooth is no longer a normal occurrence.
It can be alarming to notice a loose tooth.
Some causes of loose teeth in adults are harmless. Others require the care of a dental professional to save the tooth, remove it, or replace it with an implant or bridge.
This article outlines treatment options for a loose tooth and provides information on possible causes and ways to prevent loose teeth.
A range of treatments can help, and the best option will depend on the cause of the looseness.
Some treatment options include:
- Scaling and root planing: This is a type of deep cleaning procedure that can treat and help reverse gum disease.
- Medications or mouth rinses: These can help infected gums heal and combat bacteria in the mouth.
- Surgery: The aim of surgery is to remove inflamed gum tissue and bone damaged by gum disease.
- Bone grafts: These can help rebuild bone lost to gum disease.
- Soft tissue grafts: Also known as gum grafts, these can prevent further gum or tooth loss in people with gum disease.
- Dental appliances, such as bite splints: These can reduce damage from grinding and may help the mouth heal after dental surgery.
- Treatment for diabetes: Appropriate treatment is important for dental and gum health.
If a loose tooth falls out, a dentist may suggest a dental bridge or a dental implant.
A dental bridge is a type of crown that fits over the teeth on either side of the missing tooth. The result is a bridge between two healthy teeth, connected by a prosthetic, or artificial, tooth in the place of the one that is missing.
A dental implant involves an artificial tooth and root, which is connected to the jawbone.
Although these options are effective, it is essential to treat the underlying cause of tooth loss and take any other steps needed to prevent further damage.
The following factors are often responsible for looseness in one or more teeth.
Also known as periodontitis, gum disease involves inflammation and infection of the gums. It can happen due to poor dental hygiene habits.
About 40% of people experience gum disease, and about 70% of tooth loss happens because of the condition.
When brushing and flossing do not remove plaque, gum disease can develop. Plaque contains bacteria. It sticks to teeth and hardens over time until only a dental professional can remove it.
Hardened plaque, or tartar, causes the gums to pull away from the teeth, creating gaps that can become infected.
Over time, this process can break down the bone and tissue supporting the teeth, causing the teeth to become loose.
Other symptoms of gum disease include:
- gums that are tender, red, painful, or swollen
- gums that bleed during brushing
- gum recession
- changes in the way the teeth fit together
What to do
Any person who notices symptoms of gum disease should visit a dentist as soon as possible. Early detection and treatment can prevent tooth loss.
Learn about surgery for gum disease here.
Raised levels of estrogen and progesterone during pregnancy
Having more of these hormones can alter the periodontium, which is the collection of bones and ligaments that support the teeth and keep them in place. When the periodontium is affected, one or more teeth may feel loose.
What to do
Changes to this part of the body typically resolve after pregnancy, and they are not a cause for concern. However, anyone who is experiencing pain or loose teeth during pregnancy should contact a dentist to rule out gum disease and other oral health problems.
It is safe for pregnant people to have dental checkups, cleanings, and X-rays, according to the American Dental Association and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
In fact, because of a possible link between gum disease and premature birth, pregnant people should visit dentists regularly.
Injury to the teeth
Healthy teeth are strong, but an impact from a blow to the face or a vehicle accident, for example, can damage teeth and surrounding tissue. The result may be chipped or loose teeth.
Similarly, clenching the teeth during times of stress or grinding them at night can wear down the tissues and loosen the teeth.
Many people are unaware of their clenching or grinding habits until they result in jaw pain. A dentist may be able to detect the problem before the teeth are permanently damaged.
What to do
Anyone who suspects that an injury has damaged their teeth should visit a dentist as soon as possible. Sports injuries, accidents, and falls, for example, can cause dental damage.
Osteoporosis is a condition that causes the bones to weaken and become porous. As a result, even minor bumps and impacts can lead to broken bones.
Although osteoporosis commonly affects the spine, hips, and wrists, it can also damage the bones in the jaw that support the teeth.
If the jaw bones become less dense, the teeth may loosen and fall out. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) also report a possible link between bone loss and an increased risk of gum disease.
Certain medications that treat osteoporosis can cause dental health problems, though this is uncommon. In rare cases, drugs called bisphosphonates — which help treat bone loss — can lead to loose teeth. This is known as osteonecrosis of the jaw.
Trauma and surgical procedures, such as tooth extraction, can also cause osteonecrosis.
What to do
A person should discuss their osteoporosis medication and side effects with a doctor. They should also regularly discuss their dental needs with a dentist.
Dentists may not recommend invasive surgery. However, minor dental procedures may be helpful.
A person cannot always prevent a loose tooth, but they can take steps to reduce the risk.
Some tips for tooth and gum health include:
- brushing the teeth thoroughly twice per day
- flossing once per day
- refraining from smoking
- attending dental checkups and cleanings as often as recommended
- wearing a properly fitted mouthguard while playing sports
- wearing a bite splint when nighttime grinding or clenching is an issue
- asking a doctor about calcium and vitamin D supplementation to help prevent osteoporosis
- keeping diabetes under control, as this condition is a risk factor for gum disease
- being aware of medications that may affect the teeth
For an adult, a loose tooth can be alarming. However, it is sometimes possible to save the tooth, especially when the problem is detected early.
If a tooth is lost or requires removal, a number of restorative methods can give the appearance of a natural tooth.
A loose adult tooth may be alarming. It can result from trauma or injury to the tooth, or it could signify an underlying condition, such as gum disease or osteoporosis. Teeth can also become loose due to pregnancy.
Treatment for a loose tooth will depend on the cause. A person should ensure that they have effective oral hygiene methods and regularly visit a dentist for checkups.