What causes a tooth to loosen?
There are several dental issues that can cause your adult teeth to feel loose. One of the most common causes of a loosened tooth is oral trauma. When a tooth has experienced a trauma, the periodontal ligaments that hold the tooth in place can stretch. There are thousands of these ligaments lining the outside of your tooth root, very similar to the springs around a trampoline. This is what allows your tooth to experience the minor pressures of chewing crunchy foods or minor dental trauma without falling out. However, when these ligaments become stretched, the tooth moves more than usual, making it feel loose.
When the tooth feels loose in the morning and then tightens back up throughout the day, it is an indication that you suffer from a condition known as bruxism. Patients with bruxism sleep with their teeth clenched very tightly together - usually far more tightly than their normal bite. This causes the teeth to slide and grind together, which causes the periodontal ligaments to stretch. Throughout the day the lack of extreme pressure allows the ligaments to return to their normal shape, resulting in the tooth tightening back into place.
One other common cause of loosening teeth is gum disease. When plaque is not removed through proper brushing practices and regular dental cleanings, it hardens into a material known as tartar. This can begin to accumulate below the gum line, providing a breeding ground for bacteria that eventually leads to an infection. Left untreated, this infection will destroy the gum tissue, and can damage the periodontal ligaments that hold your teeth in place. Eventually this will lead to the loss of your teeth if allowed to continue.
Can loose teeth be treated?
In most cases, loose teeth can be treated. The treatment you receive will vary depending on the cause behind the loosening of your teeth. In the case of an oral trauma, the first step will be to stabilize the tooth using a technique known as splinting. A small, flexible dental splint will be used to anchor your tooth to the two teeth on either side of it. This is usually worn for a period of two weeks to allow time for the periodontal ligaments to heal properly.
If your teeth have become loose as the result of bruxism, you will be given a special mouth guard. You will wear this while you sleep in order to provide a cushion for your teeth, preventing your jaw from clenching so tightly. If your teeth do move back and forth during the night, they will slide back and forth along the surface of the mouth guard instead of dragging against each other causing tooth damage and dental trauma.
More extensive treatment may be required in the case of gum disease. First, your teeth with be deep cleaned using a technique known as dental scaling and root planing. This removes the tartar and plaque build up from the teeth and below the gums, and then smooths the surface of the tooth root in order to prevent bacteria from sticking to the surface. In some cases, antibiotics an other medications may be prescribed. If your gum disease is very advanced, periodontal surgery may be required in order to shrink the periodontal pockets that have formed and treat any infection beneath the gums.
Unfortunately there are times when a loose tooth cannot be saved. In these cases, your tooth will be extracted and then replaced with either a dental implant, fixed dental bridge, or a removable partial denture. This ensures that the remaining teeth will not begin to shift in an effort to fill the resulting space, and also helps to prevent gum and bone loss in the area of the extracted tooth.