In children, loose and shaky teeth are commonly seen during normal childhood tooth loss when the primary or baby teeth make way for the permanent set of teeth. This starts around the age of 6 to 7 years and is usually complete by the age of 12 to 13. Children, with their sugary diet and active lifestyle, are more prone to tooth decay and trauma respectively.

Tooth decay, gum disease and trauma are the three most important causes of shaky, loose teeth in adults. Loose teeth in an adult is a sign of poor dental health and often the conditions leading to loose teeth are preventable. Taking proper care to ensure good oral hygiene is one of the most important steps which can help to save a tooth from becoming loose and eventually falling out.

Wire splints can be used to strengthen loose tooth by anchoring it to neighboring teeth. Some amount of tooth sensitivity is often seen after a tooth splinting procedure but it should settle with time.

Why do teeth become loose?

Healthy gums and bone hold the teeth firmly in place. The teeth are normally anchored securely in their sockets in the jaw bone. The periodontal membrane binds the root of the tooth to the jaw bone and also allows some amount of movement of the tooth within the bony socket.

With accumulation of excessive plaque there is inflammation of the gums, which pull away from the tooth. A pocket is formed that gets filled with more plaque. As the pocket gets deeper, the plaque hardens to form tartar, over which more plaque gets deposited. As the tartar moves down to the root of the tooth, it erodes the bone supporting the tooth and eventually succeeds in destroying it. With this support compromised, the tooth becomes loose and may either fall out or will need to be removed.

In case of tooth decay and dental cavities, the enamel, dentin, and finally the pulp are affected. The tooth becomes weak and may break easily and it may become loose in its socket. In addition, an infection can spread from the root of the tooth to the bones supporting the it.

Causes of Loose, Shaky Teeth

Gum

Tooth

  • Tooth decay and dental caries
  • Misaligned teeth or malocclusion puts extra pressure on teeth that come together before all the other teeth.
  • Bruxism – habitual grinding or clenching of teeth
  • Dental abscess
  • Normal childhood tooth loss

Dental Procedures

  • Bone loss around dental implants seems to be a more common feature than previously thought. The more the number of implants, the greater the amount of supporting bone loss.
  • Orthodontic treatment involving use of wires or braces often leads to loose teeth as a result of pressure due to these appliances.

Trauma

  • Accidental trauma or assault
  • Injuries while undergoing dental procedures may lead to a loose tooth.
  • Therapeutic related dental injuries, such as during endotracheal intubation has been reported in some cases.

Systemic Causes

  • Osteoporosis in the extreme form may cause teeth to become loose but other signs of osteoporosis (decrease in bone density) such as brittle bones and frequent fractures will be more evident much earlier.
  • Sjogren’s syndrome is associated with early tooth loss.
  • Chronic illness such as diabetes.
  • Lowered immune status in AIDS or cancer.

Nutritional Causes

  • Severe nutritional deficiencies
  • Extreme malnutrition
  • Scurvy – vitamin C deficiency

Other Causes

  • Smoking and use of chewing tobacco predispose to gum disease and people with such habits are more likely to suffer from loosening of the teeth. Upon quitting smoking and stopping use of tobacco products, gum disease has been seen to improve significantly.
  • Age-related. Periodontitis is the main cause of tooth loss in older people.
  • Alveolar bone abscess
  • Oral cavity cancer
  • Jaw misalignment


Article reviewed by Dr. Greg. Last updated on October 10, 2010