Sometimes, adult teeth can feel a bit loose, which is particularly noticeable when you’re eating or brushing your teeth. In many cases, this sensation will feel worse in the mornings, and then gradually tighten up during the day. Often, the sensation is completely gone by morning. If your tooth feels loose, it may be tempting to ignore the problem when this occurs, but a loose tooth should never be ignored. It is an indication that there may be a more serious problem.
There are a number of dental issues that can cause adult teeth to feel loose, however most common cause is oral trauma. When an impact or other oral trauma occurs, the small periodontal ligaments that hold your tooth roots in place can stretch. Each tooth has thousands of these ligaments lined up all around the root, much like the springs around a trampoline. When these become stretched, the tooth can begin to feel loose.
For most adults, this type of oral trauma is usually caused by bruxism, or nighttime tooth grinding. This condition causes you to sleep with your teeth clenched very tightly all through the night. In some cases, you may even grind your teeth back and forth, further stretching the ligaments. This can cause your teeth to feel loose in the mornings.
Another common cause of loose teeth is gum disease. When plaque and other deposits begin to develop beneath the gum line, an infection can occur. When left untreated, this infection can destroy gum tissue and damage the periodontal ligaments holding your tooth in place. This will leave them feeling loose, and can lead to a number of other dental problems, including eventual tooth loss.
The treatment you receive for your loose teeth will depend largely on the cause. The first step will be to give your tooth some extra support in order to stabilize it. This process is known as splinting, and involves placing a small, flexible splint in place in order to keep the tooth from moving. Your dentist will use a special dental cement to bond a small splint on either side of your tooth, anchoring it to the surrounding teeth in order to keep it stable and still. The splint is usually worn for around two weeks in order to give the periodontal ligaments time to heal.
If your loose tooth has been caused by bruxism, you will also be given a special mouth guard to wear at night while you sleep. This will help to cushion your teeth, preventing you from fully clenching your jaws during the night. If you do grind your teeth, they will simply slide back and forth along the smooth material of the mouth guard, preventing the periodontal ligaments from experiencing the stress that caused your tooth to become loose in the first place.
In the case of gum disease, treatment may need to be a bit more extensive. The first step will be to schedule you for a few deep cleaning appointments, during which each quadrant of your mouth will be carefully treated. You will undergo dental scaling and root planing in order to remove the plaque and other deposits that have collected below the gum line. You may also need to undergo a course of antibiotics, and if your periodontal pockets are very deep, they may be filled with a special medication designed to shrink them back down to a normal size.
If your tooth is beyond saving, a tooth extraction may be necessary. Once the tooth is removed, you will be given either a dental implant, a dental bridge or partial denture to replace the tooth. This keeps the remaining teeth in your mouth from pulling out of their sockets in order to fill the resulting space, protecting your dental health.