Loose Tooth: What to do if a Permanent Tooth Becomes Loose
Everyone knows that baby teeth fall out and when that first baby tooth becomes loose it’s more exciting than it is scary, especially as the tooth fairy may be paying a visit. The opposite is true, though, once we’re adults. The idea of an adult tooth coming loose and wiggling in the mouth and may result in tooth loss can instill terror in even the toughest among us. No one wants to lose an adult tooth, after all.
The good news is that, even though a loose permanent tooth is a serious dental matter, there are things that can be done to remedy the problem.
The first thing you’ll want to do if you notice a wiggly tooth (in addition to scheduling an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible!) is to determine the reason why the tooth is loose. Your dentist can help you with this, if necessary. If an injury has caused the tooth to become immediately loose, the treatment will be much different than if the tooth loosened over time and is related to poor dental health. In other cases, a tooth can gradually become loose from a bite problem that has little to do with your dental care.
When a tooth becomes loose because of biting force, it’s known as primary occlusal trauma. When biting is normal, but teeth become loose because of degraded bone and gum tissue, it’s known as secondary occlusal trauma. If you have mediocre to poor dental habits, coupled with the tendency to clench or grind your teeth, your risk for teeth becoming loose is much higher than it is for non-clenchers with good oral care routines.
If your tooth actually falls out, especially if there was an immediate incident that led to trauma, you need to do everything you can to save the tooth. Keep it in your mouth or put it in a baggie or glass filled with milk and contact your dentist immediately. There’s a chance a knocked out tooth can be replanted, or at least splinted, and eventually be functional again.
Secondary trauma is the most common reason adults develop loose teeth. Gum disease is a serious problem and it can lead to loosened teeth. Over time, bacterial plaque accumulates on teeth and causes gums to become infected and detach from the teeth. The weaker the attachment between gum and teeth the more likely it is the tooth will loosen and fall out or need to be pulled. A loose tooth can actually be a sign that you’re dealing with late-stage gum disease.
Can Loose Adult Teeth Be Treated?
In many cases, it’s possible to intervene and stop the damage gum disease is doing to your teeth. Treatment begins with a visit to the dentist to determine what exactly is causing the looseness and to begin a standard dental care routine.
The first step in fixing a problem with loose teeth is to undergo a routine cleaning that removes plaque and calculus. This can ease some of the gum inflammation and allow an infection to be identified and treated. Your dentist might give you special instructions to use a medicated rinse at home, and you’ll learn how to follow a comprehensive at-home dental care plan.
“Over the years, I have talked with many patients who have received periodontal therapy to treat their gum disease. The common misconception is most people believe professional treatment fixed their gum disease forever. Nothing could be further from the truth. For therapy to work, permanent and lasting changes must be made to your dental care habits at home. If you continue to do what allowed your gum disease to begin, the disease will continue to get worse in spite of receiving the best professional care. Real help to save your teeth involves a commitment to a complete lifestyle change.”
Once you’ve got a basic dental routine underway and the immediate problems with the gums have been dealt with, you’ll tackle the issue with the loosened tooth or teeth. The first step is to examine the force inflicted on the tooth when chewing. A dentist can lessen the impact on teeth that are loose by changing the shape of the tooth so it doesn’t come into contact with other teeth when chewing. Easing some of the biting force can go a long way in slowing the loosening process as other issues are dealt with.
If a tooth is extremely loose, a splint can be used to hold it in place. The splint is a temporary solution that is placed on the outside of the tooth, as well as the healthier teeth in the area. This provides stability to the loose tooth while a crown set is designed and put in place as a permanent solution. The crowns are put over the loose tooth and the nearby non-loosened teeth to create stability.
You might also be offered a night guard to help you deal with grinding your teeth. Breaking this habit is essential for keeping your teeth strong and preventing them from loosening any more than they already have.
Keep in mind that no matter the reason for your loose tooth, the sooner you act the better. Recognizing gum disease early and treating it can prevent teeth from ever loosening. Even if your teeth have become loose, it’s important to get your gums’ health because that will help protect your teeth long-term.
If your loose tooth has been caused by an injury, it’s also important to have it looked at as immediately as possible. Don’t just assume everything will be OK if your tooth is only “a little loose.” This can damage a variety of things. Having a loose tooth in your mouth can affect your bite and before you know it, you’re dealing with several serious dental health problems in addition to the single loose tooth.
It’s also important not to be embarrassed by a loose tooth. Too many people avoid going to the dentist for fear they will feel humiliated or receive a lecture about their poor dental health. It’s true, a meeting with the dentist about a loose tooth will likely include some dental health education and instruction, but it’s for your own good. Dentists know that people neglect their dental health and they are there to help you. Don’t let your pride get in the way and never feel ashamed enough to not ask for health if you want to improve your dental health.
Your teeth play an important role in your health and you should do everything you can to keep your natural teeth. If you’ve neglected your dental health until now and you’re ready for an improvement, there’s never been a better time. Dental care is more advanced than ever and it’s possible to completely restore dental health even after years of neglect.
Medically Fact-Checked & Written by Our Dental Editorial Team
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