A loose tooth in a child often signals a rite of passage. However, once a person reaches adolescence, a loose tooth is considered abnormal.
Adults may be alarmed when they notice loose teeth. Adult teeth are permanent and designed to last a lifetime.
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Causes of loose tooth in an adult
The following factors are often responsible for one or more loose tooth in adults:
Gum disease, also known as periodontitis, involves infection and inflammation of the gums. It is usually caused by poor dental hygiene habits. Gum disease can develop when brushing and flossing do not properly get rid of plaque. Plaque contains bacteria which sticks to teeth and hardens over time until only a dental health professional can remove it.
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Hardened plaque, known as tartar, causes the gums to pull away from the teeth, creating gaps that can become infected. This process can break down the bone and tissue supporting the teeth, causing the teeth to become loose over time.
Symptoms of gum disease include:
- gums that are red, painful, or inflamed
- gums that bleed when the teeth are brushed
- gum recession
- changes in the way the teeth fit together
Early detection and treatment can prevent tooth loss, so any signs of gum disease should be quickly examined by a dentist as soon as possible.
During pregnancy, raised levels of estrogen and progesterone can affect the bones and tissues in the mouth. 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.
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The changes to this part of the body will resolve after pregnancy, and they are not a cause for concern. However, anyone experiencing pain or loose teeth during pregnancy should see a dentist to rule out gum disease and other oral health problems.
Injury to the teeth
Impact from a blow to the face or a car accident, can damage teeth and surrounding tissue. This can result to chipped or loose teeth. Also, clenching the teeth during times of stress or grinding them at night can wear down the tissues and loosen the teeth.
Osteoporosis is a bone disease that causes the bones to weaken and become porous. This causes even minor bumps and impacts to cause broken bones or fractures.
Osteoporosis commonly affects the spine, hips, and wrists, but 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. Certain medications used to treat osteoporosis can cause dental health problems, though this is
Loose teeth cannot always be prevented, however a person can take precautionary steps to reduce the risk. Tips for tooth and gum health include:
- flossing once a day
- brushing the teeth thoroughly twice a day
- quit smoking
- attend dental checkups and cleanings regularly
- wearing a properly fitted mouth guard 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
- being aware of medications that may affect the teeth
Treatment for a loose tooth
- Scaling and root planing. This deep cleaning procedure can treat and help to reverse gum disease.
- Medications or mouth rinses. These can help infected gums to heal and fight bacteria in the mouth.
- Surgery. The can remove inflamed gum tissue and bone that has been damaged by gum disease.
- Bone grafts. These can help to 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 to heal after dental surgery.
- Treatment for diabetes. Appropriate treatment is important for dental health.
If a loose tooth falls out, a dentist can often restore a person’s smile with:
- A dental bridge. This type of crown 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. This involves an artificial tooth and root, which is connected to the jawbone.