Last Updated on May 5, 2023 by Dr Gustavo Assatourians DDS
Loose teeth present in a wide variety of ways; yet, keep in mind that with children, it may be due to the milk teeth, which is normal depending upon the age. But in an adult, a loose tooth may need attention to be saved.
Most cases of a loose adult tooth are harmless, while others need treatment and care from a dental professional to either save the tooth or extract it with an implant or bridge. We will say the possible causes, how to treat a loose tooth, and how to prevent it from happening.
Almost always, when a tooth is loose, it is possible to save it if treated in time. Some of the reasons for a loose tooth in an adult are associated with injuries, and diseases, among causes such as:
What causes loose adult tooth?
1. Gum disease
Gum disease is also known as periodontitis. It involves the inflammation of the gums and possible infection, which generally occurs from the accumulation of plaque where bacterial growth begins, causing cavities and infection as a result of poor eating habits and oral hygiene. It affects nearly half of Americans over the age of 30, and that’s why fixing periodontitis is important.
According to Medical News Today, approximately 40% of adults have experienced gum disease, and of these, 70% may have a loose tooth, which could lead to tooth loss.
- Some of the symptoms are:
- tender, red, sore, or swollen gums
- gums that bleed during brushing
- gum recession
- changes in the way the teeth fit together
These symptoms are associated with a hardened plaque that causes the gums to separate from the teeth, creating a space that is easily colonized by bacteria. When the infection progresses, and if not treated, it breaks the bone and destroys the tissue that supports the teeth, generating loose teeth.
Variability in estrogen and progesterone levels during the gestation period of the fetus can affect the bones and tissues of the mouth. These hormones alter the periodontium, the set of bones and ligaments that support the teeth and make them stay in place; therefore, when it is affected, some teeth may become or feel loose. Having loose teeth during pregnancy can be normal and tends to go away on its own after birth. However, if you notice that these signs continue, it is recommended to consult a dentist.
3. Injury to the teeth
Dental trauma received to the face and near the mouth can cause slightly loose or actually loose teeth. This usually happens from impacts received during a sports activity or a car accident. Sometimes, the angle of impact will only damage the underlying tissue and bone, resulting in tooth loss. If you have suffered a traumatic or serious injury and your teeth are loose, it is recommended to go to a dental emergency center or consult a dentist (general or specialist) as soon as possible, and thus avoid tooth loss.
This condition pertains to grinding the teeth, rubbing or squeezing against each other unconsciously. It can cause damage and complications such as:
- Headache and facial pain
- Pain in the ear or tinnitus
- Muscle stiffness and pain around the jaw
- Pain around the neck and shoulders
- Disruption of sleep
- Bleeding gums in severe cases
- Tooth fracture
The problem may be due to stress, anxiety, or other medical conditions such as stimulants or antidepressants – sometimes due to sleep apnea, alcohol and tobacco use, among others causes. Bruxism usually occurs while sleeping when a person unconsciously clenches their jaw, sometimes moving it from side to side.
Because osteoporosis causes weak and porous bones, any minor blow or impact to the mouth can cause a loose tooth. This condition commonly affects the hips, spine, and wrists; however, it can also affect the jaw bones directly or indirectly. Some medications for the treatment of osteoporosis cause oral health problems when their consumption is chronic and administered for a long time. This is the case with bisphosphonates, which are usually rare; although it helps treat bone loss, they can cause tooth loss as well.
In the case of osteoporosis in the jaw, the bones become less dense, and the teeth can become loose and fall out. The National Institute of Health (NIH) reports a possible link between bone loss and the increased risk of gum disease.
How to deal with loose tooth
There is no procedure for tightening loose teeth at home. The best thing is to contact a dentist for advice and treatment:
- If you have symptoms of gum disease and feel a loose adult tooth, see a dentist as soon as possible.
- It is important for a pregnant woman to have regular check-ups by a dentist, according to the American Dental Association (ADA) and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. However, anyone who experiences pain or loose adult tooth during pregnancy should see a dentist to rule out other problems.
- If you suspect your teeth are loose because of an injury, see a dentist as soon as possible; for example, sports injuries, falls, accidents, or any damage to the teeth.
- People who are diabetic or suffer from osteoporosis and take chronic medications for these conditions should schedule regular dental check-ups to avoid complications or side effects associated with these medications.
- Loose teeth may hurt, so leave it alone. Do not try to move it forcefully to prevent it from detaching from the periodontal ligaments.
- Do not wait too long after identifying a loose adult tooth. It may be caused by various health conditions that should be checked by a dentist.
- Do not try to remove loose teeth, as this could cause a much greater infection if one has been generated.
- If the tooth is loose or ready to come out, do not resort to home remedies. Instead, consult a dentist, as it is possible to save the tooth.
Treatment Options for Loose Adult Teeth
There is a wide variety of treatments, depending upon the cause of the loose adult tooth. The dentist will determine the best option. Note: there are surgical and non-surgical treatments.
1. Non-surgical treatments
If the cause of the loose tooth is identified early, such as periodontitis, treatment may be the most efficient and safest way to reverse the spread of gum disease and heal it satisfactorily. These treatments include:
- Scaling: the removal of tartar accumulated on the surface of the tooth and under the gums. This is done by a dentist, using a manual scaler and an ultrasonic cleaner.
- Root planing: your dentist smoothes the tooth surface to reduce the chance of further tartar and bacteria buildup.
- Antibiotics: these are used to stop the spread of bacterial infections that damage the bone and tissue that support the teeth.
These deep cleaning and possible infection treatments allow the gums to fully recover when accompanied by proper care. In the event that your loose adult tooth is due to a serious condition, it will most likely require surgical management.
2. Surgical treatments
When a loose adult tooth occurs as a result of advanced periodontitis, bruxism, an injury, or other health problem, more drastic measures are required, depending upon the severity, such as”:
- Flap surgery: the dentist will make incisions in the gums and remove the tissue to perform a scaling and root planing procedure. The gum tissue is reattached after the procedure. This procedure can prevent tooth loss.
- Bone graft: sometimes, bone loss can be significant. There are cases of bone deterioration either due to disease or osteoporosis. In either case, your doctor may take bone fragments from another area of your body or use a special bone graft material to repair the diseased bone in your mouth. It may allow more bone volume to support your teeth.
- Splinting or splint: If a loose tooth has not been knocked out, your doctor may be able to save it using a splint. Your dentist may use a piece of metal to join two neighbouring teeth together. This gives the loose tooth extra support and prevents it from shifting.
- Bite adjustment: a loose adult tooth can be caused by an incorrect bite since the opposing arches of the upper, and lower teeth do not meet naturally, causing the teeth to grind. A cosmetic procedure reshapes the biting surface of the tooth by removing small amounts of tooth enamel. This reduces pressure on the tooth, allowing it to heal.
- Mouthguards: these are given to athletes and patients who cannot control bruxism. It serves as a protector to use while sleeping. It creates a protective barrier between the upper and lower teeth so they do not rub against each other. However, the technique is preventive, and the dentist must assess whether other corrective methods are required.
A loose adult tooth is possibly alarming since teeth are fixed. It is not a minor situation and could be associated with gum disease, injury, or a health condition. Therefore, it is generally recommended to go to the dentist at least twice a year and practice good oral hygiene with brushing and flossing. It is also important to discuss with your dentist any special care you should take, depending upon the situation. A loose tooth can be recovered and saved as long as it is attended to in a timely manner, i.e., pertinent treatment is carried out.
If you have any questions about this or other topics, you can contact us at Channel Island Family Dental as well as our Facebook page. We look forward to your visit and we will make a timely diagnosis. Our dentists in Oxnard, Saint Paula, Venture, Newbury Park, and Port Hueneme will be able to guide you towards the best treatment to take care of your health and give you back your best smile.
- Berry, Jennifer; Archibald, Jennifer. Why is my tooth loose, and how do I treat it? Medical News Today (Internet). Review Nov 29, 2021, (consulted on Sep 13, 2022). Available on: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/3220282
- Division of Oral Health, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Pregnancy and Oral Health. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (Internet). Review Mar 18, 2022, (consulted on Sep 13, 2022). Available on: https://www.cdc.gov/oralhealth/publications/features/pregnancy-and-oral-health.html
- Punia, Kirrin; Dexter, Amanda; Porter, Robert. Do You Have a Loose Tooth? All About Causes, Treatment, and Prevention. Dentaly.org (Internet). Review Feb 18, 2022, (consulted on Sep 13, 2022). Available on: https://www.dentaly.org/en/oral-health/loose-tooth/
- Higuera, Valencia; Frank, Christine, DDS. Loose Teeth in Adults: What You Should Know. Healthline (Internet). Review Sep 18, 2018, (consulted on Sep 13, 2022). Available on: https://www.healthline.com/health/loose-tooth
- Shetty S, Pitti V, Satish Babu CL, Surendra Kumar GP, Deepthi BC. Bruxism: a literature review. J Indian Prosthodont Soc. 2010 Sep;10(3):141-8. doi: 10.1007/s13191-011-0041-5. Epub 2011 Jan 22. PMID: 21886404; PMCID: PMC3081266. Available on: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3081266/