For kids, a loose tooth is something really exciting. It’s a sign of growing up, as baby teeth fall out and are replaced with full size grown up teeth. And, if they’re lucky, they may even get a little bonus from the Tooth Fairy.
But when we’re adults, a loose tooth is more likely to cause alarm. But should you really be concerned? Here are some common causes of loose teeth for adults and how you should respond.
Natural teeth are intended to have a little wiggle room. Teeth are secured not directly into the bone, but with a tough but flexible ligament. This ligament allows the tooth to wiggle just a little bit. About a hundredth of an inch is normal, just enough that you might feel it move under significant pressure, but you shouldn’t actually be able to see the movement. The tooth should also not bleed or hurt when you do this.
Recent Orthodontic Work
If you’ve had any type of orthodontic treatment, you might experience loose teeth for a while afterward.
All orthodontic treatment, whether it’s traditional braces or clear aligners like Invisalign, works the same way. It applies force to your teeth, and that force causes your body to reshape the bone around the teeth. The body removes bone in some places and builds it up in others, until the forces on the bone are balanced. But the new bone isn’t always as sturdy and snug when you get finished with orthodontic treatment. It takes time for the body to make a fully secure housing for your teeth in their new location. That’s why you wear a retainer: it helps hold your teeth in their desired location while the body rebuilds the bone around it.
So if you’ve got a loose tooth after orthodontic work, it’s probably not a concern. Keep wearing your retainer and following regular care instructions. Mention it at your next check-up and we’ll take a look at it.
The only time it is a concern is if the tooth used to be secure, but now is getting looser. Then it’s time to contact our office.
A tooth trauma can cause your tooth to loosen, but it’s not always apparent that that’s what’s happening. Sometimes a tooth might be loose immediately, but other times it can take days or weeks before it gets loose. Sometimes the trauma feels severe enough that you know it’s what caused your looseness. Other times, you don’t think you hit your tooth that hard and are surprised when it starts to get loose.
If you think trauma has caused your tooth to come loose, please contact our office for an appointment. We’ll look at your tooth and recommend a course of action. If you have an orthodontic retainer, it might be enough to wear it while your tooth heals. Or maybe we’ll splint the tooth by attaching it to neighboring teeth. This can hold it in place while it heals.
Sometimes, though, inspection reveals that the damage to the tooth is too severe to heal. Bone loss may be increasing rather than reducing. We may recommend removing the tooth and replacing it with a dental implant.
Gum disease is a common cause of loose teeth. Unfortunately, it’s also the number one reason why adults lose their teeth. If the gums around the loose tooth are red, inflamed, bleeding, or receding, then it’s likely gum disease is putting your tooth at risk.
Gum disease treatment is often successful at saving teeth in this condition. We may splint the loose tooth while we treat the gum disease. A splint connects the loose tooth to more secure neighbors to give it time to heal. A deep cleaning may be used, or we may recommend surgery. If all goes well, your natural tooth will become secure again and you won’t need dental implants. Treating gum disease also helps protect your overall health from related health conditions like heart disease, dementia, stroke, and even cancer.
If your tooth is infected, it might seem secure for a while, but the infection can destroy the bone that anchors the tooth, making it loose. An infected tooth is typically very painful. It may hurt spontaneously, or you may get deep, linger pain in response to pressure, heat, cold, or sweets. You may have chronic bad breath or a foul taste in your mouth. An infected tooth is also likely to turn dark as the pulp inside dies. But sometimes an infected tooth doesn’t hurt at all. And it may not change color.
If your tooth is infected, we’ll evaluate it and decide if it can be saved with root canal therapy. This removes the infected material and replaces it with inert material that won’t get infected. But if the bone around the tooth is too damaged, it might not be a good candidate for a root canal. Once a tooth has been treated, it can last decades.
If your bite is imbalanced, it can put excessive force on your teeth. Normally, biting and chewing stimulates the body to anchor the teeth strongly with bone. But if bite force is too much, it can damage the bone and make your teeth loose.
A good clue that this is what’s happening is that your teeth may be worn, chipped, or cracked as well as being loose. You may also experience other TMJ symptoms like jaw pain, jaw popping or clicking, headaches, ear pain, ringing in the ears, or vertigo. Left untreated, bad bite can worsen over time, leading to more loose teeth.
We’ll evaluate your bite for problems like bruxism and TMJ, and determine what needs to be done. We’ll work not only to save the loose teeth, but all your teeth, as well as your jaw joints and your overall health.
Let’s Save Your Tooth and Save Your Smile
A loose tooth doesn’t necessarily mean that the tooth will be lost. At Advanced Dentistry of Tarrytown, we can help you save your tooth–and your smile. Please call today for an appointment with one of our Westchester County dentists.