Loose Teeth In Adults; Signs, Symptoms, Causes, & Treatment

Loose Teeth In Adults; Signs, Symptoms, Causes, & Treatment

While a loose tooth is typical for children, noticing looseness as an adult is a cause for concern. This occurs when a tooth loses support and slowly detaches from the gums and bone. The slightest touch may cause the tooth to move, and eating or chewing can cause further loosening.

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What is tooth luxation – loose tooth?

A loose tooth occurs when trauma, such as a fall, disrupts the tissues, ligaments, and bone that hold a tooth in place. Tooth luxation can also affect the tooth’s nerves and blood supply.


A luxated tooth is sometimes loose, angled, or moved out of the socket. Sometimes, a luxated tooth has no noticeable signs but feels tender.


Loose teeth are most common in children and young adults, although anybody can have tooth luxation. If you suspect a luxated tooth, see a dentist right away. You may need immediate treatment, depending on the severity of the luxation.

What parts of a tooth can become loose?

Teeth consist of two parts:


  • The crown is visible outside of your gums.

  • The root lies within your gums.


Both the crown and root consist of several layers:


  • Enamel: Hard white outer surface.

  • Dentin: Middle layer of the tooth.

  • Pulp: Soft inner tissue containing blood vessels and nerves.


Your tooth sits within the alveolar bone, the jaw part holding the tooth sockets. Connective tissue fibers called periodontal ligaments attach the root of your tooth to the alveolar bone.


Tooth luxations affect the periodontal ligaments and alveolar bone. They can also lead to pulp damage. Treatment for a luxated tooth depends on which tooth structure is injured and how severe it is.

Who gets loose tooth?

Loose teeth occur frequently in children and young adults. Though dental trauma can happen at any age, most occur in kids ages 11 to 15. Luxation makes up 18% to 33% of injuries to permanent teeth in the United States.


Dental trauma accounts for 18% of all injuries to children up to age 6. Luxation of primary teeth makes up 21% to 81% of all dental injuries. Males have tooth luxation more often than females do.

Symptoms and Causes

What causes loose teeth?

Damaging a tooth’s tissues and ligaments requires a large amount of force. In young children, falls are the most common cause of luxated teeth. For people of all ages, other causes of tooth luxation include:


What are the symptoms of a loose tooth?

Luxated tooth symptoms depend on the type of tooth luxation. Symptoms may include:


Diagnosis and Tests

How do healthcare providers diagnose loose teeth?

To diagnose a luxated tooth, your provider asks about your symptoms and what caused the possible tooth luxation. They also ask about any trauma or injury you’ve experienced.


You’ll need to see a dentist to thoroughly evaluate your teeth. They ask about your dental history.


After that, your dentist may:


  • Check your tooth for any looseness.

  • See whether your tooth is sensitive or tender to the touch.

  • Tap your tooth to listen for high-pitched metallic (ankylotic) sounds.

  • Take an X-ray of your teeth.

  • Do a pulp sensibility test to see whether there’s damage to the pulp.

What are the types of loose teeth?

Tooth luxations can range from mild to serious. The five types of luxated teeth, in order of severity, are:


  • Concussion: A concussion occurs when there’s an injury to the structures supporting your tooth (periodontal tissues). Though your tooth hasn’t moved or loosened, it often feels tender when touched.

  • Subluxation: A subluxated tooth occurs when there’s an injury to the periodontal tissues. Your tooth is loose but hasn’t moved from its original location. The tooth often feels tender when touched. It may bleed near the gumline.

  • Extrusive luxation: An extrusive luxation occurs when the periodontal ligament separates. Your tooth has moved out of its socket, but the socket is still intact. The tooth is very loose and looks longer than usual (elongated).

  • Lateral luxation: A lateral luxation happens when the bone that holds your teeth (alveolar bone) fractures and the periodontal ligament separates. The tooth isn’t loose but looks angled forward or backward from the gumline. Your provider will hear a high-pitched metallic (ankylotic) sound when they tap your tooth.

  • Intrusive luxation: An intrusive luxation happens when your tooth moves into the socket, resulting in an alveolar bone fracture. The tooth isn’t loose. Your provider hears an ankylotic sound when tapping your tooth.

Management and Treatment

Can I treat a loose tooth myself?

You can’t treat a luxated tooth by yourself. You must visit a dentist or endodontist to treat a luxated tooth. An endodontist is a dental specialist focusing on dental pulp and root issues.

Treatments for a loose tooth in adults

Treatment begins once your doctor identifies the cause of a loose tooth. If you have gum disease, you’ll need a special dental cleaning procedure to remove hardened plaque that has accumulated underneath your teeth and gums. This is called scaling and root planning. You may also receive antibiotics to help kill any infection. Scaling removes tartar and bacteria, while root planing smooths the root surface and helps the gums reattach to the tooth.


Depending on the severity of gum disease, you might be a candidate for surgery. Options include:


  • Flap surgery. Your doctor makes incisions in your gums and pulls back the gum tissue to perform a scaling and root planing procedure. Gum tissue is reattached after the procedure. This procedure can prevent tooth loss.

  • Bone grafting. In cases of bone deterioration, your doctor can take fragments of bone from another area of your body or use a special bone grafting material and to repair diseased bone in your mouth. This helps support your teeth.

  • Splinting. If a loose tooth hasn’t detached from the guns, your doctor may be able to save the tooth using a splint. Your doctor uses a piece of metal to bond two neighboring teeth. This gives the loose tooth extra support and keeps it from moving.

  • Bite adjustment. This procedure reshapes the bite surface of the tooth by removing small amounts of tooth enamel. This reduces pressure on the tooth, allowing it to heal. This is an option for a loose tooth caused by grinding.

  • Mouth guard. Another option for grinding is wearing a night guard while sleeping. This creates a protective barrier between the upper and lower teeth.

How do I take care of myself after the repair of my loose tooth?

To help protect your tooth after repair, you should:


  • Brush gently with a soft toothbrush after each meal.

  • Consume only soft food and liquids for one week.

  • Rinse with an antibacterial chlorhexidine mouthwash twice daily for one week.

  • Take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) as needed for pain relief.

You’ll also need to visit your dentist for regular checkups. Your dentist will monitor the luxation over time to ensure it doesn’t worsen. This follow-up is especially important for a minor luxation that didn’t need initial treatment.


Can I prevent loose teeth?

Many times, a luxated tooth is an accident. You can reduce the chances of a luxated tooth by:


  • Using a seatbelt when in a vehicle.

  • Wearing a helmet when riding a bike, scooting, or playing certain sports.

  • Wear a mouthguard if you play sports.

Outlook / Prognosis

What is the outlook for people with a luxated tooth?

Prompt treatment of a luxated tooth can preserve your original tooth. Good dental hygiene and regular checkups can help extend the life of your tooth.


Your tooth may still serve you for many years, but providers can’t predict how long your tooth may last. Many complications can affect repaired teeth, including:


  • Ankylosis happens when the tooth fuses to the bone and starts sinking into the gum tissue.

  • Apical periodontitis is inflammation of the tissue surrounding your teeth.

  • Inflammatory root resorption is a breakdown of your tooth’s root structure. This can cause your tooth to loosen.

  • Pulp canal obliteration (PCO) involves hard tissue deposits along the walls of the root canal. PCO is usually painless but can lead to pulp necrosis.

  • Pulp necrosis occurs when the pulp (tissue in the center of your teeth) dies. If you have pulp necrosis, your dentist may need to remove the whole tooth.

Living With

When should I see my healthcare provider about loose teeth?

You should see your provider about a luxated tooth if you experience:


  • Bleeding.

  • Continued tooth pain, tenderness, or sensitivity.

  • Swelling.

  • Tooth discoloration.

References & Resources




Medically Reviewed By


NKC Dental 2023