When your tooth feels loose, it can make brushing your teeth and eating incredibly uncomfortable, or even painful. Many patients experience a sensation of looseness in the morning that gradually seems to tighten back up as the day progresses, with the tooth feeling normal by evening. Because it seems to correct itself, it can be tempting to ignore this issue; however, it is important to see your dentist if you notice this happening. Any loosening of your teeth can be an indication that a serious dental health issue exists that needs to be evaluated and treated.
What causes a tooth to loosen?
A number of dental health issues can cause your tooth to feel loose. The most common of these is oral trauma that has injured the tooth. When a tooth suffers from unusual pressure or an impact, it can cause the ligaments that hold your teeth in place to stretch. These periodontal ligaments surround the tooth in a way that resembles the springs on a child’s trampoline. Ordinarily, these ligaments allow your tooth to withstand the daily pressures of chewing and minor trauma without injury. However, a truly hard impact or significant oral trauma can stretch these ligaments out of shape, causing your tooth to feel loose.
A tooth (or several teeth) that feels loose in the morning, but tightens back to normal through the day usually indicates that you are suffering from nighttime tooth grinding, or bruxism. This condition causes you to sleep with your teeth tightly clenched, which subjects your teeth and periodontal ligaments to unusual pressure for far longer than normal. As you move through the day, the lack of this pressure allows your periodontal ligaments to contract back to normal, causing your tooth to feel as though it has tightened back to normal.
Finally, if your teeth are becoming loosened, it may also indicate that you are suffering from the early stages of gum disease. Plaque build up on the teeth that is not removed properly through regular professional cleanings and proper brushing technique can harden into tartar. This material collects on the teeth and below the gums, which can breed bacteria. This infection will eventually destroy your gum tissue and may also damage the ligaments holding your teeth. If left untreated, gum disease can result in tooth loss.
Can loose teeth be treated?
Most of the time teeth that have loosened can be easily treated. Which treatment you receive will vary, based on the cause of your particular case. If you have suffered an oral trauma that has loosened your tooth, it will first be stabilized using a dental splint. This is applied to either side of your tooth, and will anchor it to the surrounding teeth in order to allow the periodontal ligaments to heal. This generally talks around two weeks.
In the case of bruxism or nighttime tooth grinding, your dentist will provide you with a specialized mouth guard. This will be worn while you sleep in order to prevent your teeth from clenching tightly together and grinding against one another while you sleep. Even if you do clench or grind your teeth while wearing the guard, the teeth will simply slide easily back and forth against the smooth surface of the mouth guard. Not only does this protect your periodontal ligaments, it can help to protect the surface of your teeth from damage as well.
If your teeth are loosening due to gum disease, your treatment may be more involved. First, you will undergo a deep cleaning in order to remove all of the plaque and tartar buildup from your teeth and gums. Next, your dentist will smooth the surface of your tooth roots in order to prevent bacteria from building up in these areas again. You will most likely also be given antibiotics and perhaps other medications, depending on the severity of your gum disease. In extreme cases, gum disease treatment can require surgery in order to return the teeth and gums to full health.
Unfortunately, not every loose tooth can be saved. In some instances, it may be better for the health of your remaining teeth and gums to extract the tooth, and replace it with a dental implant or other dental device. This helps to prevent additional dental health issues in the future, protecting your smile and keeping you as healthy as possible.