Many Americans are missing one or multiple teeth. The CDC estimates that only about forty-eight percent of adults between the ages of 20 and 64 had a complete set of permanent teeth. Missing teeth can harm a person’s self-esteem and confidence, especially if the missing tooth is visible when smiling.
However, most people don’t realize that missing teeth can cause many other dental health concerns. Missing teeth can make it more difficult for people to chew their food, and some foods may even irritate or puncture gums left exposed by the tooth’s absence. It can be painful to eat with enough missing teeth, leading some to experience nutrition deficiencies or weight loss.
Missing teeth can decrease jaw bone density, increasing a person’s risk of tooth decay. A reduced jaw bone density can impact soft tissues in the mouth and lead to periodontal disease and other oral conditions. Both tooth decay and periodontal disease can lead to further tooth loss, which can then go on to compound the same problems.
While there are many causes of tooth loss, many cases are preventable. It’s essential to learn more about the most common causes of tooth loss to increase awareness regarding oral health and take necessary steps to safeguard it.
Signs Your Teeth Are Falling Out
While there are several common causes of tooth loss, most people will experience dental symptoms signifying an impending tooth loss. These symptoms can vary based on the reason but may include signs such as:
- Loose teeth
- Bleeding or receding gums
- Sudden increased tooth sensitivity or sharp pain in or around a tooth
- Persistent bad breath
- Tooth discoloration
Americans who experience oral health symptoms should see a dentist right away to have their teeth examined. When dental conditions are caught quickly enough, a patient’s teeth may be able to be saved. If they cannot be saved, they can be removed before further complications arise, such as an infection, or to reduce painful symptoms.
What are the Most Common Causes of Tooth Loss in Adults?
Tooth loss is relatively common in America, especially among older adults. This has caused many Americans to ask, “Why are my teeth getting loose and falling out?”
While there are many causes of tooth loss, here are the four most common reasons that teeth may loosen and, ultimately, fall out.
Periodontitis is a gum disease that causes teeth to fall out. This severe gum disease causes damage to soft tissues and teeth bone support, leading to the loosening and ultimately losing teeth. Symptoms of periodontitis include:
- Puffy, swollen gums
- Purple, dusky red, or bright red gums
- Gums that bleed easily
- Bleeding when brushing or flossing
- Pus between gums and teeth
- Difficulty or pain when chewing
- Spaces that develop between teeth
- Bad breath
- Changes in bite
- Gums that are receding from teeth
- Loose or lost teeth
While periodontitis is common, it’s generally preventable. Periodontitis is usually caused by inadequate oral hygiene, such as failing to brush at least twice a day, failing to floss daily, and failing to meet routine dental checkup guidelines.
When dental plaque builds up on teeth, that plaque can harden beneath the gumline to become tartar. Tartar cannot be brushed away and must be removed at dentistry. Left untreated, tartar begins to damage vital soft tissues, cause gumlines to recede, and eventually destroy bone structures that support teeth, leading to tooth loss. The early stages of periodontitis can be reversed with the proper treatment and preventative measures.
Some factor cause a patient to be more at risk of developing periodontitis, including:
- Chewing or smoking tobacco
- Poor oral hygiene
- Certain health conditions, including gingivitis, diabetes, Crohn’s disease, and rheumatoid arthritis
- Poor nutrition and vitamin C deficiency
- Recreational drug use
Severe Tooth Decay
A common question that patients ask is, “Can your teeth fall out from not brushing?” Unfortunately, severe tooth decay can sometimes result in a person’s teeth falling out. However, it is more likely that a tooth will need to be pulled before reaching that point to alleviate painful symptoms and infection risk.
Tooth decay, also known as cavities, is generally caused by inadequate oral hygiene, bacteria, frequent snacking, and sugary or starchy drinks and foods. The symptoms of tooth decay include:
- Pain in or around teeth
- Tooth sensitivity
- Pain when biting down or when eating or drinking something cold, hot, or sweet
- Visible pits and holes in the teeth
- White, brown, or black staining on the surface of a tooth
When eating and drinking starchy and sugary foods, a transparent sticky film known as dental plaque begins to coat a person’s teeth. This film can be removed through good oral hygiene, including brushing and flossing. When it is not removed, plaque hardens and begins to eat through the tooth’s outer layer, the tooth’s enamel. Once the enamel has been breached by plaque and the bacteria within it, tooth decay develops and continues to eat through the tooth.
Symptoms, such as pain, do not typically occur until after the decay has reached the inner tooth material, the pulp. The tooth’s pulp contains nerves and blood vessels and may become swollen, irritated, and painful. If the decay is severe enough, a dentist may even need to remove the tooth if it cannot be saved.
If the cavity remains untreated, the tooth may die, leading to teeth rotting and falling out. As decay becomes severe, many patients begin to wonder, “Do dead teeth need to be removed?” Unfortunately, teeth that cannot be saved must be removed.
With tooth loss being so common among adults and seniors, many patients ask, “What diseases can cause your teeth to fall out?”
Osteoporosis is another common cause of tooth loss. This condition causes bones to become brittle and weaken, causing lifelong complications that can be severe. When it comes to tooth loss, osteoporosis can weaken the jawbone, which supports teeth. Research has shown that older women who have osteoporosis are three times more likely to suffer tooth loss due to the disease.
The symptoms of osteoporosis include:
- A gradual loss of height
- Bones that break easily
- Stooped posture
A patient’s likelihood of developing osteoporosis is liked to several factors, including genetics and the amount of bone mass attained in youth. Osteoarthritis is more common in the elderly, smaller body frames, and women. It is also known to be more common in patients with too much or too little of particular hormones, such as sex, thyroid, and adrenal gland hormones.
Injuries to the face, jaw, and teeth are common causes of tooth loss. Injuries may be caused by blunt force, such as from falls, automobile accidents, or contact sports. Patients who participate in contact sports are strongly encouraged to wear mouth guards and other safety equipment to prevent damage to the face, jaw, and teeth.
At What Age do Adults Start Losing Teeth?
Tooth loss is a serious concern for American seniors. According to the CDC, about 26 percent of adults ages 65 and older have eight or fewer teeth, and around 17 percent have lost all of their teeth.
These startling statistics have led many adults to wonder, “Why do teeth fall out when you get old?”
Seniors may face many common health challenges as they grow older. They become more likely to experience high blood pressure, weakening bladder muscles, impaired memory or thinking skills, reduced hearing, dry and brittle skin, and weakening muscles, joints, and bones. Bones tend to shrink, weaken, and wear down over time. The same can be said for teeth.
Teeth can begin to break down from years of wear and tear, which may be made worse by poor oral hygiene, dry mouth, smoking, poor diet, eroded tooth enamel, and other factors. If a tooth has been weakened, it becomes more susceptible to trauma, tooth decay, and other common causes of tooth loss.
However, seniors can reduce their likelihood of experiencing tooth loss by visiting a dentist every six months, following good oral hygiene practices, avoiding smoking, and choosing a diet that supports a healthy mouth and teeth.
Is it Normal for Teeth to Wiggle Slightly?
Permanent teeth should not wiggle. A loose tooth can be a sign of impending tooth loss and should be assessed by a licensed dentist as soon as possible to determine the cause of the loose tooth and discuss treatment options.
Do Loose Teeth Tighten Back Up?
Depending on the cause of loose teeth, early treatment can prevent teeth from falling lost and being lost. The treatment options available to patients are determined by the conditions leading to the loosening teeth and the condition’s severity.
Patients experiencing loose teeth or other dental symptoms should contact their dentist right away for an exam. Dentists can determine the root cause of loose teeth and discuss the best treatment options available for them.
Treatment Options for Loose Teeth
There are several treatment options for loose teeth that a dentist might employ. These treatments include:
- Bone Grafting: If a patient’s bone has deteriorated, dentists can use bone grafting material or take fragments of bone from another area of the body to repair the diseased bone. The graft helps support a patient’s teeth and may prevent further damage and tooth loss.
- Flap Surgery: If a patient’s teeth are loosening from periodontitis, dentists can pull back the gum tissue to perform scaling and root planning procedures. During this procedure, the dentist removes the hardened plaque that has built up beneath gums and teeth. Then, the root planning portion of the process helps smooth the root surface so that the gums can reattach to the tooth. The gumline is reattached after the procedure, and antibiotics are prescribed if an infection is present.
- Splinting: Loose teeth may be saved by boding the loose tooth to its two neighboring teeth using a metal piece. The adjacent teeth provide the loose one with additional support and prevent it from moving further.
How Can You Tighten Loose Teeth at Home?
There is no reliable way to tighten loose teeth at home. It is imperative that patients visit with their dentist if their teeth appear to be loose, wiggle, or shift. Seeing a dentist as quickly as possible will increase the likelihood that a tooth can be saved before it falls out.
Can Your Teeth be too Bad to Fix?
Unfortunately, there is no way for a person to tell whether their teeth are bad enough to be removed without visiting a dentist. A dentist can perform an oral exam and take x-rays to determine the patient’s best treatment options. These options will vary based on the severity and causes of the damage.
What to Do if a Permanent Tooth Falls Out
Tooth loss not only affects a person’s confidence and self-esteem but their bite and the strength and density of their jaw. Patients who lose one or more teeth should talk to their dentist about their bridges and implant options.
Implants are generally considered the preferred option when replacing a single tooth or multiple teeth adjacent to one another. Dental implants are custom-made fake teeth implanted into a patient’s jawbone using titanium screws and posts. Patients that do not have a jawbone that will support implants may still be able to get implants with the help of augments of bone or bone-like material through an additional surgical procedure.
Bridges are typically a superior option when replacing several teeth. A bridge consists of fake teeth that are fused to a metal frame. This frame is supported by healthy teeth that are covered with crowns or with dental implants.
In either of these procedures, it takes several visits with a dentist and months of healing between the stages of the procedures. Dental implants and bridges can be a costly investment, with the cost of replacements for a single tooth being as high as $6,000. However, investing can prevent further complications caused by the missing teeth.
There are several common causes of tooth loss. However, treatment options are available for loose and missing teeth. Patients must visit their dentist if they experience oral health symptoms. Furthermore, tooth loss may be preventable with routine visits to a dentist, good oral hygiene, avoiding certain foods and drinks, and refraining from smoking.