Loose teeth are usually a sign of advanced gum disease.
Gum disease is a slow, insidious process. It begins in the gingival sulcus, an area just above where the gum attaches to the tooth.
Plaque accumulates in this area. If left undisturbed for as little as a day, it begins to calcify into hard deposits called calculus. Unless it is cleaned off regularly, this calculus becomes a chronic irritant to the gums. It is loaded with bacteria that secrete toxins into the sulcus, and these toxins, along with the body’s defensive response, cause the destruction of the tissue that supports the teeth. To complicate the matter, it also causes inflammation, including swelling, of the gingival tissues, which protects the bacteria.
This is the process that is called periodontal disease. The insidious part is that there isn’t any pain, and the only noticeable early symptom is a little bleeding of the gums, which many people don’t realize is abnormal. Often, the first warning sign that the patient notices is that they have loose teeth. But by then, the destruction is so advanced there is often little that can be done.
Fig. 1: The gingival sulcus, circled, is a protected area just above where the gum attaches to the tooth.
Other Possible Causes of Loose Teeth
For adults, the other threat to your teeth is accidental trauma. You know how it goes. You take a bad fall, hit your mouth, and start to notice that one or more of your teeth are loose and sore. These kinds of things can happen in a car accident, on a sports playing field, or during one of those goofy, freak accident things that happen to all of us at one point or another. Short of living in a bubble or constantly wearing a mouth guard there isn’t a lot you can do to prevent this type of loose teeth from occurring. Of course if you play some type of contact sport, it is vitally important to wear a mouth guard just in case. If your mouth does become damaged in an accident, get to your dentist as soon as possible to treat the injury before it gets any worse.
A tooth can also become loose from chronic infection, due to a failed root canal treatment or a cracked root. It can also become loose from traumatic injury. If a tooth breaks partway down the root, it can become loose and unrepairable.
What to Do about Loose Teeth
When it comes to loose teeth, the most effective treatment is prevention. Having your teeth cleaned every six months (or as often as every two or three months if you have early periodontal disease), plus conscientious home care, can protect your teeth and gums so you never get to the point where your teeth are loose.
Once they are loose, in some cases they can be treated with advanced cleaning procedures and teeth splinting procedure. The process of splinting teeth can be used to treat teeth affected by gum disease, but it will more likely be used when there has been mouth trauma. A thin steel wire is used to stabilize the teeth and add more strength. The loose teeth are attached to firmly entrenched teeth so there is no need to remove them. You also won’t have to deal with feeling the tooth move or experience any more pain from chewing foods that goes along with wobbly teeth.
Too often, though, loose teeth are hopeless. And then, once you’ve lost your teeth, you can be tempted to try to just get by with removable dentures, ending up years later with facial collapse, and becoming a dental cripple.
The good news is that with modern dental implants techniques, you can have replacement teeth surgically placed. While nothing is as good as having your own natural teeth, dental implants are much better than any other tooth replacement. Not only do they prevent facial collapse, but you can eat and enjoy all your food, without restriction.
If you experience a loose tooth for any reason, don’t despair. Dr Antonious can help you decide on the right loose tooth treatment for you and your situation.