Adults may be alarmed when they notice loose teeth. It’s permanent and designed to last a lifetime. Some causes of loose teeth in adults are harmless. Others require the care of a dental professional to save the tooth, remove it, or replace it with an implant or bridge. So, what causes tooth loss?
Causes of a loose tooth in an adult
Also known as periodontitis, this disease involves inflammation and infection of the gums. It is usually caused by poor dental hygiene habits.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in America report that half of the country’s adults aged 30 or older have gum disease.
When brushing and flossing do not remove plaque, gum disease can develop. Plaque contains bacteria. It sticks to teeth and hardens over time until only a dental health professional can remove it.
Hardened plaque, known as tartar, causes the gums to pull away from the teeth, creating gaps that can become infected.
Over time, this process can break down the bone and tissue supporting the teeth, causing the teeth to become loose.
Other signs of gum disease include:
- gums that are tender, red, painful, or swollen
- gums that bleed when the teeth are brushed
- gum recession
- changes in the way the teeth fit together
Any signs of gum disease should be checked by a dentist as soon as possible. Early detection and treatment can prevent tooth loss.
Injury to the teeth
Healthy teeth are strong, but an impact from a blow to the face or a car accident, for example, can damage teeth and surrounding tissue. The result may be chipped or loose teeth.
Similarly, clenching the teeth during times of stress or grinding them at night can wear down the tissues and loosen the teeth. Many people are unaware of their clenching or grinding habits until they result in jaw pain. A dentist may be able to detect the problem before the teeth are permanently damaged.
Anyone who suspects that an injury has damaged the teeth should see a dentist as soon as possible. Sports injuries, accidents, and falls, for example, can cause dental damage.
Osteoporosis is a disease that causes the bones to weaken and become porous. As a result, even minor bumps and impacts can lead to broken bones.
While osteoporosis commonly affects the spine, hips, and wrists, it can also damage the bones in the jaw that support the teeth. If the jaw bones become less dense, the teeth may loosen and fall out.
Certain medications used to treat osteoporosis can cause dental health problems, though this is uncommon. In rare cases, drugs called bisphosphonates, which help to treat bone loss, can lead to loose teeth. This is known as osteonecrosis of the jaw.
Authors of one study suggest that osteonecrosis rarely occurs in people who are taking bisphosphonates in pill form, but that the condition may develop in people who receive the medication intravenously.
Trauma and surgical procedures, such as tooth extraction, can also cause osteonecrosis.