As children grow and begin to lose their baby teeth, adult teeth grow in their place. These sturdier teeth are the ones they will use for the rest of their lives — so keeping them strong, healthy, and clean is extremely important.
However, an active and unpredictable childhood offers plenty of ways for a child’s adult teeth to become loose!
From athletic mishaps to falls, or even biting into something very hard, a child’s world is a minefield of tooth-loosening opportunities.
Here, we’ll explore some common questions parents face when it comes to their child’s adult tooth becoming loose, including what your immediate response should be.
Is It Normal for Permanent Teeth to Wiggle?
While children’s permanent teeth sometimes become a little wobbly, it’s always worth examining — barring an accident, your healthy teeth should remain firmly in place.
Baby and permanent teeth are both slightly pliable because of your periodontal ligaments, the small muscle fibers that hold the roots of your teeth in place. Although some movement is normal, if a tooth can move more than 1 mm, it has greater mobility than it should. Higher than average mobility could be a sign of trauma or disease.
Why Is My Child’s Permanent Tooth Loose?
Your child’s permanent teeth – also known as adult teeth – can become loose and start to wiggle for a number of reasons, such as:
- Gum disease as a result of poor oral hygiene
- Complications of osteoporosis of the jaw bone
- Adverse effects from certain medications like bisphosphonates
- Untreated or uncontrolled diabetes
- A build-up of dental plaque
- Sudden injury or impact
- Severe tooth grinding or clenching of the jaw
Will a Loose Permanent Tooth Tighten on Its Own?
Sometimes, the gums can heal on their own when faced with a mild injury. The tooth gradually becomes firm again as the root heals over time. However, you should consult with your child’s dentist about the correct treatment to ensure the loose tooth heals itself properly.
The good news is that, with the help of a dentist, a loose tooth can often be stabilized with a splint. This temporary procedure allows the gums and ligaments to strengthen around the tooth until they are ready to hold it firmly in place again.
Not all teeth need to be splinted if they can move, so be sure to consult with your pediatric dentist first if you are wondering if a splint may be necessary — never try to do this at home!
How to Prevent Loose Adult Teeth
The best preventative measure for loose teeth and other issues is to practice good home oral hygiene and see your dentist regularly for cleanings. Some ways you can prevent tooth loss include:
- Brushing regularly at least twice each day and using dental floss
- Getting dental health checkups as recommended
- Wearing a mouthguard to prevent injury while engaging in sports
- Getting a bite splint to prevent grinding or clenching while you sleep
- Getting plenty of calcium and vitamin D to keep your teeth strong
- Keeping your diabetes under control
- Asking your doctor if any medications could have adverse health effects on the teeth
What Should You Do If Your Permanent Tooth Is Loose?
In the case of an injury that results in a loose adult tooth, check out the situation immediately and use your best judgment. If your child’s gum is bleeding, have them gently bite down on some gauze to slow the blood loss. Sucking on an ice pop or ice cube can help minimize any swelling in the area. Often the initial best treatment is controlling pain and swelling at home.
Once you’ve dealt with any immediate issues, you’ll want to call your child’s dentist to see if an in-person assessment is needed. They’ll be able to offer advice about stabilizing the tooth and schedule an appointment if needed.
How Do You Treat a Loose Tooth?
Your treatment will depend upon the cause or underlying condition that has created the issue. Treatment options for a loose tooth may include the following:
- Scaling and root planing for treating gum disease
- Antibiotics or antiseptic mouth rinse for controlling the mouth’s bacteria
- Bone grafts
- Gum grafts
- Surgical removal of damaged or inflamed tissues
- A bite splint
- Medication for controlling diabetes
What Should I Do If a Permanent Tooth Falls Out?
If your child’s intact tooth falls out, your dentist might be able to successfully re-implant it if the root tissues stay healthy and free of bacteria. You never want to reinsert an avulsed baby tooth, as this can damage the permanent tooth growing underneath the surface. And you should always consult with your dentist before reinserting an avulsed permanent tooth. There are some very critical steps that need to be followed in order to achieve good results.
Take the following steps:
- Avoid touching the root when you pick the tooth up.
- Rinse the tooth in a bowl of lukewarm water.
- Make an at-home attempt to reattach the tooth by moving it gently into the empty socket and wiggling it until the root goes back inside.
- Ask the child to carefully close their teeth over a sterile gauze pad or, if one is unavailable, a damp paper towel, to keep the loose tooth in place until you can get help.
- Have the child keep biting down on the gauze or paper towel as you drive to your emergency dentist’s office.
If your child is too young to hold the tooth in place, or you’re worried they might swallow it, it’s crucial to keep the tooth from drying out. Prepare to take the tooth with you on an emergency visit by storing it in:
- A small container or vial of your own saliva.
- A small container of milk.
- An over-the-counter solution.
Avoid storing the tooth in water! This can actually damage the cells that are on the root surface. If your dentist’s office is closed or you lack access to emergency dental care, go to the nearest emergency room instead.
Will an Adult Tooth Grow Back?
No, your child’s adult teeth will not grow back — we only have one set of these!
If they lose a permanent tooth, your best bet is to save the tooth and bring it along immediately to the dentist, where there is a chance they can repair or replace it. Alternatively, they can have a tooth implant placed instead, which will require a consultation with your pediatric or family dentist. It is important to note, that children are not candidates for implant placement. This procedure is reserved for adult patients only who are done growing.
Tooth Reattachment Options
If the root is still viable, a dentist can use a metal or plastic splint to hold the loose tooth in place until the ligaments regrow and healing has occurred. The split will stay in place until your dentist determines it is time to come out, usually after a few weeks.
Reattaching a knocked-out tooth might be impossible when the root is damaged or lifeless. Luckily, there are a few options for filling in the gap with a replacement:
- Dental implants: Your dentist installs a titanium post, an abutment and a crown, giving you tooth that looks and feels just like a normal adult tooth.
- Dental bridges: Your dentist attaches a bridge to the surrounding teeth to fill the space with an attractive false tooth.
- Implants and bridges are most commonly reserved for adult patients. For pediatric or teen patients, a temporary retainer can be worn to fill the void.
If you have a dental emergency where you are concerned your child’s adult tooth was knocked loose, always contact your child’s dentist to look for advice and to see if any treatment is indicated.
At Fox Kids Dentistry and Orthodontics, our doctors of well versed in handling emergencies for our patients of record. At your child’s routine check-up visit, we can discuss any history of trauma and what can be done to avoid having issues related to loose adult teeth. Contact us at 503-223-5039 to schedule your child’s next visit.