Loose Tooth: Facts, Causes And Treatment

A tooth that becomes loose in a child most often signifies that it’s time to bid it goodbye in order to pave way for its permanent successor.

In an adult, it could be as a result of a more serious cause. Because the adult teeth are permanent and designed to last a lifetime, it could be quite alarming when the tooth/teeth become loose. Loosening can affect one tooth or multiple teeth.

When a tooth becomes loose, this means that the support that it gets from the gums and the jaw bone has been lost and this could be due to a number of causes.

Dental care

Some of these causes may be temporary and resolve with time while others may require urgent professional care. This article explains the facts, causes, and treatment of loose teeth.

Facts About A Loose Tooth

When it comes to a loose tooth, there are a lot of misconceptions and myths surrounding the causes. It is important to know that loose tooth is not a natural phenomenon associated with old age.

Apart from children where a loose tooth is a normal occurrence, in an adult, it is not normal and not associated with increasing age. However, aging may be the reason for other diseases such as diabetes mellitus that can indirectly cause loose teeth.

Causes Of A Loose Tooth

1. Changing Dentition

Baby teeth

This is the commonest cause of loose tooth in a child. This means that it is time for the baby tooth to go so that the permanent tooth can come out. Usually starts from age 5 and ends at about age 11.

2. Trauma

This is one of the commonest causes of a loose tooth. This could happen if you fall and hit your face on the floor, from a blow to the mouth, or a vehicular accident. This is also common in people who engage in contact sports like boxing and wrestling. The loosening is frequently seen in the upper front teeth.

3. Gum Disease

Smoking
Advanced gum disease, also known as chronic periodontitis, is another cause of loose tooth. This is a bacterial disease that is caused by poor oral hygiene which leads to plaque and tartar build-up. If left untreated, it can lead to gum inflammation and destruction of the bone that supports the tooth.

Other symptoms include bleeding gums, drifting of the tooth, and bad breath. People with underlying medical conditions such as poorly controlled diabetes mellitus, and also smokers are more prone to coming down with gum disease.

4. Para-functional Habits

Unconscious habits like clenching and grinding of the teeth can cause the teeth to become loose. These habits are usually triggered by stress and anxiety. These habits can also cause complications such as jaw pain and headache.

5. Pregnancy Hormones

Pregnancy
Hormones such as progesterone and estrogen are usually high during pregnancy. This can cause loosening of the bone and tissues around the tooth leading to loose teeth. This situation is usually temporary and may resolve with early intervention.

6. Mouth Tumors

Some tumors of the mouth, such as ameloblastoma that occurs mostly in the lower jaw, can cause the roots of the teeth to resorb leading to loosening of the teeth.

7. Oral Cancer

Cancer of the maxillary antrum which is an air-filled space in the upper jaw usually causes loosening of some of the upper teeth close to the area. Other oral cancers can also cause your teeth to become loose. Complications include bleeding, facial swelling, and blurred vision.

8. Osteoporosis

Older people

This is a medical condition in which the bones in the body become weak. It is mostly seen in women aged 50 and older. This disease also affects the jaw bones causing it to deteriorate. The teeth then become loose because they have lost their bony support. If combined with gum disease, it can cause the teeth to fall out eventually.

9. Cysts

A cyst is a fluid-filled cavity and when it occurs in the jaws, it can sometimes cause the affected tooth or teeth to become loose.

10. Tooth Abscess

Tooth abscess

An infected tooth due to extensive cavities, fracture or trauma can cause accumulation of pus leading to the formation of an abscess. This abscess may form within a short period or may take a long time before it manifests.

11. Fractured Jaw

The jaw can be fractured due to trauma from a fall or an accident. This usually results in loose teeth.

Other Symptoms

Other symptoms associated with loose tooth are

Bad breath

  • Bad breath or a bad taste in the mouth
  • Bleeding gums
  • Gum pain
  • Jaw pain
  • Swollen gums
  • Discolored tooth
  • Throbbing tooth pain
  • Facial or jaw swelling
  • Difficulty in chewing

Treatment of A Loose Tooth

The treatment options available in treating loose teeth include:

  • In cases of trauma, the treatment is dependent on the degree of the loosening of the affected tooth or teeth. If mild, your dentist will place you on pain medication (if there is pain), antibiotics and warm water-and-salt rinse. You will also be placed on a soft diet and advised not to use the teeth to bite or cut anything. Over time, healing of the gum tissue will occur and the tooth may become firm again.
  • In cases of moderate mobility, the tooth may be tightened using Nickel- Titanium wires or composite tooth filling material. This splint is carried for a period of four to six weeks before being removed when the teeth have stabilized. Weekly observation is also required to monitor the progress.
  • In severe cases, the affected tooth or teeth will have to be extracted and tooth replacement options have to be discussed with your dentist.

Tooth brush

  • Other causes of a mobile or loose tooth such as gum disease need urgent treatment by a dentist. Proper tooth brushing and flossing, professional cleaning in the dental clinic are some of the treatment options. In severe cases, gum surgery also known as periodontal surgery will be required.
  • Splinting of the teeth can also be done depending on the severity. Teeth that cannot be saved will be extracted. The blood sugar level in diabetics should be properly managed and controlled by a physician.
  • Loose teeth due to osteoporosis can be managed by taking foods rich in calcium such as milk and calcium supplements.

Milk

  • Night guards can be fabricated for patients with habits of grinding. This appliance is usually worn at night to prevent this unconscious habit and further damage to the teeth. Also, stress relieving activities can also be of great help.
  • Loose teeth seen during pregnancy is usually temporary and will resolve if seen on time. Proper oral hygiene practices, routine visits to the dentist can also help to reverse the mobility and prevent it from getting worse.

Laboratory

  • Loose teeth due to tumors or cysts need to be reviewed by an oral surgeon. The swelling may be removed surgically together with the tooth in the process. The affected teeth and the swelling are later reviewed under the microscope in the lab to confirm the diagnosis.
  • Cancer of the mouth needs to be reviewed by an oral surgeon as well. The affected tooth will also be removed in the process of the treatment.
  • A loose tooth that is caused by an abscess can be treated by the dentist doing a root canal. The abscess would resolve after the procedure and the tooth may stabilize. Additional splint for some weeks may be required if the tooth is still loose. If the tooth cannot be saved, your dentist will recommend an extraction.

Jaw

  • A fractured jaw can be treated by immobilization of the fractured ends with arch bar and wires or the use of mini plates. Loose teeth in the fracture line will be extracted to prevent infection.
  • Make a conscious effort not to push the tooth with your tongue as this can worsen the condition.

Prevention

These are the measures that can be taken so as to prevent having a loose tooth.
1. Visit your dentist regularly twice in a year for routine checks and professional cleaning. These visits should be more frequent in pregnancy. Don’t wait until it becomes too late.

2. Brush your teeth twice daily with a medium textured toothbrush and fluoride-containing toothpaste.

3.  People who participate in contact sports should wear a mouth guard so as to prevent injury to the front teeth.

Boxing

In Summary

A loose tooth can be a normal phenomenon in children as they begin to change their tooth, or it may be a sign of something serious in an adult. Visit your dentist on time so that it does not get worse.

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Onyeka Mgbemere, BDS

Dr. Onyeka Mgbemere is a graduate of Dentistry and a licensed dentist who is passionate about the promotion of oral health education and prevention of oral diseases. She is currently undergoing her residency program in Oral medicine after spending years working at a Naval hospital. Her hobbies are watching movies and reading.