One of my worst nightmares is to dream that one or more of my teeth are loose. I’ve noticed over the past couple of months that my back molar on the bottom left is getting loose. I take pretty good care of my teeth, and my dentists have always said I have good teeth, so I usually go to get cleanings every other year or so. Now I’m afraid to go to the dentist because maybe I’ll need a root canal. Can you help me?
Ray in Florida
Hi there Ray,
There are several reasons your tooth could be loose. You haven’t mentioned whether you are experiencing other symptoms or if you have pain, but your dental routine gives a hint about the possible cause here. It is possible to have “good teeth” as you put it and to take “pretty” good care of them and still experience gum disease.
In fact, one of the most important reasons a dentist recommends a dental hygiene routine that include twice-yearly visits to the dentist is to monitor the health of your teeth and to make sure that gum disease doesn’t go unnoticed and untreated.
There are some situations in which a loose tooth doesn’t point to gum disease. Our teeth are connected to our jawbones with a layer of ligaments, which allow for some movement in the sockets. And if your tooth became loose suddenly or if you experienced an injury, that could also explain the looseness you are experiencing.
More often, though, loose teeth point to gum or periodontal disease. Other symptoms that accompany periodontal disease can include bleeding gums, tender or swollen gums, gums that have pulled away from the teeth, pus between the teeth and gums, persistent bad breath, and changes in the way your teeth fit together. As you can see from the image to the left, periodontal disease breaks down the supporting structures of the tooth.
Whether or not you’ve experienced any of these other symptoms, it’s important to overcome your fear and call a dentist or periodontist at this point. Although you say you fear a root canal, it’s probably more likely that you’ll need non-surgical gum treatment.
Take a look at Pumphrey Periodontal’s Technology page — just scroll down to the bottom to the information on the Perioscope. You mentioned how fearful you are, and the information on this one new piece of technology should help you overcome your fear. The perioscope can help make both diagnosis and treatment much easier than it has ever been before. And please remember that sedation dentistry has come a long way since you were a child.
Best of luck for your continued dental health.
This Blog is brought to you by Dr. David Pumphrey at Pumphrey Periodontics in Atlanta.