A tooth loosens its grip, begins to wobble and then falls out. If you're a child, this is an exciting event. If you're an adult, it's downright distressing. When you have a full set of permanent, adult teeth, what could cause one of them to become loose? And can the tooth be saved?
Short of an accident that caused a sufficiently strong impact to your mouth, a loose tooth in adults is likely to be the result of advanced, untreated periodontal disease. The symptoms of the issue are probably going to have been noticed well before the tooth began to become moveable, but not always. Pain and general discomfort around the tooth in question are amongst the most telltale signs, and the surrounding gum might be noticeably inflamed. Obviously, this requires a prompt visit to your dentist. And yet, what if you fail to notice these signs and the first real indication of a problem is when the tooth begins to become moveable within its socket?
Saving the Tooth
The underlying periodontal disease will need to be treated, and antibiotics are likely. Your dentist might slightly delay preservative measures to save the tooth until the infection has been controlled. But what form might these measures take?
A dental splint might be added, which is when a piece of metal is affixed to the tooth in question and then connected to the teeth on either side. Ideally, the connective tissues will heal and the tooth will stabilise in its socket. The same process is used when an accident has knocked a tooth out.
Advanced periodontal disease can require gum flap surgery, wherein the gum tissue is pulled back so that a thorough scaling can be performed. The tissue is then reattached and the roots of the tooth will stabilise so that the tooth will remain in position.
Replacing the Tooth
When the tooth cannot be saved, extraction will be suggested. The tooth can then be replaced, and the chosen method will depend on the position of the tooth, as well as your budget. Prosthetic replacement options include a dental implant, a fixed dental bridge or removable partial dentures. Some rear molars can simply be extracted with no replacement, although this is not advised due to the accelerated wear and tear on your other teeth, which must now pick up the slack.
Remember, the longer you delay, the less chance you have of saving the tooth. So when a tooth feels loose, even if just a little, then see your dentist immediately.