If you’re above the age of 12 and below the age of 80, chances are that loose teeth do NOT feel natural to you.
While we might all wish that a tooth fairy left money under our pillows these days, fixing a tooth that’s fallen out would probably cost us a heck of a lot more than the $1 that sneaky pixie might leave in her wake.
So, let’s talk about how to deal with loose teeth before they become a serious issue.
First, let’s break down a few of the primary causes of loose teeth:
GUM DISEASE: Gum disease is the most common cause of tooth loss. Redness, swollen gums, the infamous ‘pink in the sink’....these are all signs of gum disease (otherwise known as periodontitis). Is this you? It is actually very common and your chances of it only increase with age. According to the CDC, 47.2% of adults 30 or older have periodontitis. That number jumps to a whopping 70.1% in adults 65 or older.
So, why is gum disease responsible for tooth loss? When plaque is not properly removed from teeth, it can harden into tartar which creates pockets under the tooth. Tartar contains harmful bacteria that can eventually lead to bone deterioration. When the bone deteriorates, teeth are no longer supported and become loose.
The lesson if you want to prevent tooth loss? FLOSS, FLOSS, FLOSS. We know, you’re tired of hearing it from your dentist, but it is the only tried-and-true method for preventing gum disease. Why not try some natural, silky-smooth floss in vegan and biodegradable options with delicious flavors like clove cardamom, silk green tea jasmine, vanilla mint, and classic peppermint?
PREGNANCY: In a previous RADIUS blog we talked about some myths and facts of pregnancy and dentition. In it, we said that bleeding gums, enamel erosion, plaque build-up, and cavities were more common during pregnancy. Why is this? Three factors: hormonal changes, gastric acid from morning sickness, and dietary changes which include a greater sugar intake and more frequent eating (meaning your teeth aren’t getting cleaned as much between meals). Add to this that loose teeth are common because progesterone and estrogen can impact the bones and ligaments that support the teeth, making your teeth feel loose. Maybe not the best aspect of pregnancy.
So, what do you do? Well, for the most part, wait it out. These changes will largely be resolved post-birth. That said, it is especially important to take extra good care of your teeth during pregnancy (brushing, flossing, seeing your dentist...the whole shebang). This is not the part of your hygiene routine to skimp on. Beyond the potential issues with general oral hygiene and tooth looseness, a study in the Journal of the American Dental Association found that women with chronic gum disease were 4 to 7 times more likely to deliver prematurely!
TEETH GRINDING: When you clench your teeth or, worse, grind them, your enamel erodes AND the pressure can wear down your bone tissue.
A solution? Maybe try a little meditation and a mouthguard. If you want a full breakdown of some at-home measures you can take to help with your bruxism, check out our article here.
INJURY: Obviously, if you’re hit in the face by a 300 pound man during a football game, your teeth might feel a little wobbly afterwards.
Unfortunately, sometimes you can’t avoid an injury. However, if you do play rough-and-tumble sports, we’d say that a mouthguard is ALWAYS a good investment.
DISEASE: Osteoporosis, a disease characterized by bone loss, is linked with tooth loss. Other diseases that are linked with gum disease such as diabetes can also impact tooth loss. Some blood pressure, immunosuppressant, and seizure medications have also been linked with periodontal disease.
What should you do if your condition or medication puts you more at risk? First and foremost, always be sure you have a healthy oral care regimen. Second, talk to your doctor and dentist to see if you can adjust your diet, add supplements, or change your medication to create the optimal regimen for your overall health AND your smile.
PREVENTION: As we’ve alluded to in this blog, the best way to avoid a loose tooth is through preventative measures. Brush your teeth twice a day for a full two minutes, floss daily, and keep your appointments with your dentist. If you grind your teeth or play rough sports, wear a mouthguard. If you have osteoporosis, ask about vitamin D or calcium supplements. If you’re pregnant...maybe always keep a toothbrush in your purse.
What happens when prevention isn’t cutting it? Here are some other treatments for loose teeth:
DEEP CLEANING: Before we get into too graphic of treatments, first try a deep cleaning. If periodontal disease is your issue, a deep clean might be the way to go. What’s the difference between a standard cleaning and a deep cleaning? Unlike a standard cleaning, deep cleaning goes under the gum line to remove built-up plaque, tartar, and bacteria.
MEDICATION: If the deep cleaning doesn’t cut it, your dentist might prescribe antibiotics which might come in pills, gels, or a ‘chip’ you insert into your gums. You might also be given an enzyme suppressant to block enzymes from destroying gum tissue after a deep cleaning.
SURGERY: If it gets really bad, there’s always the option of surgery. A couple of types of surgery you may have to face if loose teeth become a serious problem:
Gum graft surgery: If your periodontal disease is severe, a periodontist may take tissue from part of your mouth and graft it onto another part of your mouth to cover up exposed roots and prevent bone loss.
Flap Surgery: This is basically like a deep cleaning taken to the next level. A surgeon will make incisions in your gums, peel them back, and get a deep cleaning far under your gums and then smooth out the surface of your gums to remove space between the gums and teeth (also called scaling and root planing).
Bone grafting: This is similar to gum graft...but with bone. Best for cases of extreme bone loss.
ALTERNATIVE OPTIONS: There are a few alternative methods to consider that are less intense than surgery. A dentist may elect to use a splint to bind the loose tooth to neighboring teeth that aren’t loose. They also might remove bits of enamel from the loose tooth in a procedure called “bite adjustment” to alleviate pressure on the loose tooth and allow it to heal.
IF YOUR TOOTH FALLS OUT: If all else fails and your tooth does fall out, a dentist might have to put in a dental implant or a dental bridge. ….Or, worse comes to worse, you can always join your Grandpa Bobby in line for the jello.
….But let’s not join Grandpa Bobby just yet.
Before you go down the deep, dark, expensive hole of medications, surgeries, or implants, you might want to consider just making your oral health a priority.
Don’t make that nightmare about your teeth falling out a reality. Keep a’brushin’ and a’flossin’ and keep that smile a’comin’!