What Causes Loose Teeth?

Have you just discovered that you have a wiggly tooth or two? Are you wondering what has caused your loose teeth? 

If you’re between the ages of 6 and 13, and it’s your first set, worry not, it’s supposed to happen. Baby teeth fall out and get replaced by a permanent adult set. When your tooth falls out, pop it under your pillow for the tooth fairy and she’ll probably deliver you a nice shiny coin.

If you’re a little bit older, and it’s a permanent adult tooth that feels loose you might be a little distressed and anxious. Many people worry about the cause and if the teeth will fall out. 

Whilst it can be normal for healthy teeth to wiggle a little bit, it would be wise to see a dentist immediately to assess your oral health problems and organise appropriate treatment.

We can’t assess why your teeth feel loose without seeing you, but we can help you understand what causes them to be loose.  

We’ll also look at whether wobbly teeth in adults are just an inevitable part of getting older, and the treatment options available to firm the teeth back up and ultimately prevent them from falling out. Towards the end of the article, we discuss the options available if one or more teeth fall out. 

What’s Caused My Loose Tooth?

what causes loose teeth

There are a number of reasons you may have a loose adult tooth or two.


A common cause of loose adult teeth is an impact injury. A blunt trauma caused by a direct blow, assault, sports injuries, fall or even a car accident can damage the ligaments that hold the tooth to the jawbone. It can result in a tooth or teeth becoming loose in their socket. 

 Without treatment, a gum infection may develop or the loose tooth might fall out. 

Gum Disease

Gum disease, also referred to as periodontal disease is an inflammatory condition that affects the gum tissue and jaw bone.  It is a major cause of loose permanent teeth and tooth loss in adults.

The disease is triggered by a bacterial infection, and as our immune system tries to get rid of the bacteria, an uncontrolled inflammatory process results in the destruction of the foundations that hold the teeth in place. 

There are several stages of the disease.  Gingivitis, which is characterised by red, swollen gums. You may also have bleeding gums and bad breath.

If gingivitis is left untreated the inflammatory process causes the gums to pull away from the tooth and the gums recede. The periodontal ligaments can be destroyed. As the gums shrink the bone, shrinks as well.  

If the disease goes untreated, it progresses to advanced gum disease where the teeth may become loose and they may even fall out. 

Poor dental hygiene is a leading cause of gum disease.

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Other Causes

The causes below are both reasons that teeth become loose and they can also increase your risk of developing gum disease, which as we have just learned is a major cause of teeth becoming loose. 


Stress and anxiety can affect your ability to look after yourself. You may be more likely to take less care when cleaning and flossing your teeth. You may even forget to clean your teeth. 

You’re more likely to make poor dietary choices.  If stress causes you to reach for sugary foods or drinks, you’re not alone, but oral bacteria love the sugar, they have a feast on it and thrive. 

The extra sugar and failure to clean your teeth properly means that plaque will be allowed to build up and the inflammatory process will be triggered. 

Stress can also result in some teeth grinding and clenching.

Teeth Grinding

If you grind, gnash or clench your teeth (also called bruxism) it can put a lot of pressure on the teeth which can cause damage to the teeth’s supporting tissues, cause bone loss and exacerbate existing gum disease. A permanent tooth can become loose.

Hormones – Pregnancy and Menopause  

The hormonal changes that take place during pregnancy or menopause affect the production of oestrogen and progesterone which can have a serious effect on your oral health.  

Pregnancy – increases in oestrogen and progesterone levels can cause temporary changes in the ligaments and jawbone which may lead to your teeth becoming a little bit wiggly.  

Menopause – as a woman ages, estrogen and progesterone levels decrease which can result in osteoporosis. When this bone loss occurs in the jawbone, the teeth can become loose. 

Also during this time in a woman’s life, the salivary glands can fail to produce enough saliva. This causes a dry mouth, which may increase the risk of gum disease.


Certain medications can have a detrimental effect on your oral health as many have a common side effect. They can reduce the amount of saliva in the mouth. They cause dry mouth or to use the proper name, xerostomia. The dry mouth creates an ideal environment for bacteria that causes periodontal disease to grow. 

Underlying Health Conditions

There are a number of diseases and conditions such as HIV, Cancer and Rheumatoid Arthritis that can increase the risk of developing gum disease and developing loose teeth.  Osteoporosis and Diabetes are diseases that increase your risk of losing a tooth. 

Is a Loose Adult Tooth an Inevitable Part of Ageing?

Certainly not. Our teeth are designed to last us a lifetime. 

But as the CDA found out in a recent survey, 49% of older people believe that declining oral health and tooth loss is just a normal part of growing old.  

According to Public Health England, gum disease is most common in the age groups of 65 to 84.

However, humans are diphyodont. We get two sets of teeth. Our second set doesn’t just fall out and get replaced as the milk teeth do. If they were designed to fall out and get replaced – we’d be polyphyodont like a crocodile. We would get an endless supply of new teeth. 

What Should I Do If My Tooth Feels Loose?

If your tooth is loose but still attached, it’s not a reason to rush to the Emergency Room but you should schedule an appointment with your dentist ASAP. 

If you leave the loose tooth untreated, the condition may get worse and fall out. The longer you leave it, the harder it will be to treat. 

Until you can see the dentist eat soft foods and rinse the mouth with saltwater.

How To Fix A Loose Tooth

The treatment options for loose teeth depend on the cause and severity of the condition. Splinting may be used to temporarily secure a loose tooth caused by injury. Night guards or bite splints can protect the teeth from further damage due to grinding or clenching. Treating gum disease through deep cleaning, scaling, and root planing can help restore dental health by removing plaque and bacteria. In advanced cases, surgical procedures such as flap reduction surgery, soft tissue grafts, or bone grafting may be necessary to address gum recession or bone loss. The specific treatment approach will be determined by the dentist based on individual circumstances. In some cases, a loose tooth can be tightened at home.

How to Prevent Teeth Becoming Loose

If you want to prevent loose adult teeth, there are a few things that you can do.

  • Ensure you clean into any gum pockets. A specially made Gum Pocket Brush will ensure you remove any harmful plaque causing periodontitis.
  • Brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste twice a day. Use interdental brushes or flossing daily to clean between the teeth. It’s the best thing to do for your dental health.
  • Refrain from smoking, eat a healthy diet (reduce your sugar intake)
  • Stay hydrated with water to prevent a dry mouth
  • Have regular dental checkups and a professional cleaning to remove any hardened plaque and ensure you have healthy gums.
  • Wearing a mouthguard when playing sports or overnight if you clench your teeth
  • If you have underlying health conditions or take medications ask your dentists about their effects.
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What if Loose Tooth Can’t Be Saved?

If your wobbly, loose tooth falls out or needs to be extracted, there are a number of options available to restore your smile.

Traditional methods such as bridges and dentures can be used to replace the teeth, but the best long-term option is a dental implant.

A dental implant replaces both the missing teeth and their roots. They have many advantages over other methods. 

Dental implants are a permanent fixture in the mouth, the artificial root is embedded in the jawbone so they can’t move around or slip out when you’re eating or talking. The artificial root also stimulates the jawbone so it helps prevent bone loss and premature ageing.  It acts just like a permanent tooth.

Gareth Edwards image

Written by Gareth Edwards

Co-Founder & GDG Dentist

Dr. Gareth Edwards BDS (Hons) MFDS (RCPS Glasgow) is GDG Co-Founder and Gum Disease Expert.

He is a practicing dentist based in Bournemouth, UK and has treated thousands of patients with gum-related diseases.

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