What To Do If You Have A Loose Or Displaced Tooth


Getting knocked in the mouth could happen just about any time. An elbow during a basketball game, toddler’s head jolting back while they’re sitting in your lap, or an accidental bump against the door in the middle of the night are just a few examples of how a tooth could get knocked loose or displaced from accidental trauma.

Although trauma won’t always cause serious or permanent dental damage, it could. They key is to address the injury quickly and monitor the tooth over time in the event that delayed symptoms start to pop up.

Move it Back

First and foremost, displaced teeth should be gently nudged back into position. If the trauma is severe, the tooth movement could be associated with bone injury. Don’t force the tooth back if it won’t move easily; instead, let your dentist do it for you.

Stabilize Any Bleeding

Oral injuries tend to cause a lot of bleeding due to the number of blood vessels inside of the mouth. Apply pressure with clean gauze, tissues, or a washcloth until bleeding has stopped. This may take several minutes. If bleeding doesn’t get better, call your dentist for advice or head to the nearest emergency room.

See Your Dentist for an X-ray

There’s no way to know exactly what damage has occurred unless you see your dentist and have an X-ray taken of the area. If the root of the tooth has fractured or the bone is chipped, your dentist is the only one who can help. Leaving the area alone and just watching it for more obvious symptoms could allow for unnecessary discomfort and further complications. 

Make a Plan for Potential Discomfort

Your teeth have thousands of tiny ligaments around them that stretch and pull and attach the tooth to the bone around it. These fibers can become bruised and sore when teeth are displaced. As with any bruise, there may be some lingering discomfort that takes several days to go away. Consider taking an anti-inflammatory pain reliever such as ibuprofen as directed – assuming you don’t have any medical issues that would preclude use of this medications – or apply a cool compress to the side of your mouth to alleviate any swelling and residual soreness. 

Talk to Your Dentist About Ways to Splint Your Tooth

A tooth that’s placed back into position after being loosened can’t stay that way on its own. It will need something to reinforce and stabilize it, so that the ligaments and tissues around the teeth can tighten back into place. Such splits often involve a small wire or cement material that is bonded to the back surface of the tooth and the one next to it. The neighboring tooth or teeth act as stabilizers while the damaged tooth heals. Unless the splint is bothersome, it can be left in place for several years. 

Monitor Your Tooth for Changes in Color or Stability

Teeth that have been traumatized by some type of injury may appear healthy for days or even decades before symptoms of the displacement begin to affect them. For instance, some teeth may begin to die due to the effect that the injury had on the nerve inside of it.

Tooth death usually causes a darkening and discoloration of the enamel, making teeth look brown or even bluish compared to its neighbors. Such symptoms typically happen soon after the injury or decades later. Once they do, endodontic therapy (root canal treatment) will be needed to prevent the tooth from initiating a self-destruction stage called “resorption.” 

When the Looseness is From Something Else

Unless it’s a baby tooth getting ready to fall out on its own, teeth don’t become loose unless there’s trauma or some type of a medical condition. When teeth become mobile for no apparent reason, it is usually the result of periodontal (gum) disease or a cyst/tumor within the jaw. Your dentist will need to take an X-ray to evaluate your jaw for any signs of pathology and to determine the cause of the tooth’s movement.

If the mobility is associated with gum disease, the detachment of soft tissues and bone shrinkage will result in looseness once infection has reached a higher level of severity. Periodontal therapy (including scaling and root planing) and possible grafting may be necessary in order to stabilize the teeth and retain them, rather than have them extracted to halt the spread of infection.

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