A tooth that becomes loose in a child in normal. In an adult, it could be as a result of a more serious cause.
Because adult teeth are permanent and designed to last a lifetime, it could be quite alarming when a tooth becomes 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 reasons.
What Causes A Loose Tooth
1. Changing Dentition
This is the commonest cause of a loose tooth in a child. This means that it is time for the baby tooth to go so that the permanent tooth can erupt. It usually starts from age 5 and ends at about age 11.
This is one of the commonest causes of a loose tooth in an adult. 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
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 smokers are more prone to coming down with gum disease.
4. Teeth Grinding
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
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.
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 teeth to become loose. Complications include bleeding, facial swelling, and blurred vision.
This is a medical condition where 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.
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
An infected tooth due to extensive cavities, fracture or trauma can cause accumulation of pus leading to the formation of an abscess.
11. Fractured Jaw
The jaw can be fractured due to trauma from a fall or an accident. This might result in loose teeth.
Other symptoms associated with loose tooth are:
- 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
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 you feel 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.
Loose teeth due to osteoporosis can be managed by taking foods rich in calcium such as milk and calcium supplements.
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 it’s removed when the teeth have stabilized. Weekly observation is also required to monitor the progress.
Rooth Canal Treatment
A loose tooth that is caused by an abscess can be treated by the dentist performing 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.
In severe cases, the affected tooth or teeth will have to be extracted and tooth replacement options have to be discussed with your dentist.
Mouthguards 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.
In severe cases, gum surgery, also known as periodontal surgery might be required. 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.
A fractured jaw can be treated by immobilization of the fractured ends with arch bars and wires or the use of mini plates.
- Visit your dentist regularly twice in a year for routine checks and professional cleaning.
- Brush your teeth twice daily with a medium textured toothbrush and fluoride-containing toothpaste.
- Floss in between your teeth daily.
- People who participate in contact sports should wear a mouthguard to prevent injury to the front teeth.
A loose tooth is normal in children as they begin to have permanent teeth, or it may be a sign of something serious in an adult. If you have a loose tooth in adulthood, you should see your dentist urgently for proper diagnosis and treatment.
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