In adults, loose teeth are usually an indication of deeper health concerns, and while the risk of losing an adult tooth does increase with age, it is not inevitable. In many cases, tooth loss is preventable through healthy lifestyle choices and proper dental care.
What Are the Most Common Causes of Adult Tooth Loss?
Adult teeth are permanent. If a tooth becomes loose, an underlying cause is to blame. Common causes of tooth loss in adults include:
- Poor dental hygiene: Poor hygiene enables bacteria to build up in the mouth, which can potentially lead to tooth decay and tooth loss if it remains untreated.
- Damaging foods: Sodas, candy and foods with high sugar content are widely known to cause tooth decay. Other potentially damaging foods include bread produced with refined flour, citrus fruits and alcoholic drinks.
- Tooth grinding: Tooth grinding (also known as bruxism) can contribute to tooth loss. Grinding teeth wears away tooth enamel and can crack or chip teeth. Unchecked bruxism can slowly work teeth free from the gums and bone, leading to tooth loss.
- Tobacco use: Smokers lose teeth at more than double the rate for non-smokers. Smokeless tobacco can also cause tooth loss because of tooth decay, gum disease and more.
- Injury and illness: Tooth loss from injury or illness (including gum disease) may happen abruptly or occur over time. In these cases, damage to the surrounding tissue causes the gums to recede and separate from the bone, which can result in tooth loss.
What Happens If You Lose an Adult Tooth?
Adult tooth loss may be gradual or sudden, but if you lose an adult tooth, or more than one, the remaining teeth may start to move. This can cause crookedness as well as potential crowding, depending on where the teeth shift.
Additionally, missing teeth can cause the gums to recede and the jawbone to shrink, which can make the teeth on either side of the missing tooth weaker. It also makes them more susceptible to plaque, decay and gum disease.
Tooth Loss Treatment
Treatment options for tooth loss depend on the cause(s) of tooth loss. To begin treatment, schedule a dental examination. Treatment options include:
- Implants and crowns: These options replace a single tooth. Implants and crowns are both made to match existing teeth.
- Bridges and dentures: While a bridge can be used to replace a single tooth, it also works to replace more than one tooth at a time. Full or partial dentures can also be used when a person has lost multiple teeth.
If gum disease is the reason for your tooth loss, you will also need to work out a treatment plan with your dentist for that as well.
How to Prevent Tooth Decay and Tooth Loss
Tooth loss prevention begins with good oral hygiene and regular dental examinations. In many cases, adult tooth loss can be stopped and even reversed with proper and timely dental care. Contact your dentist right away if you notice worsening breath, pain or bleeding in the gums or damage to your teeth.