At around age 6, a child’s first loose tooth is to be expected. The baby tooth will get wiggly, fall out and be replaced with a permanent tooth. When it’s according to the usual timeline, losing teeth is exciting and means a visit from the Tooth Fairy is approaching. However, when kids have a loose permanent tooth or a baby tooth that’s not due to fall out, it’s a different story. In this post, our Brooklyn pediatric dentists will talk about what to do with a loose tooth and how it can be treated.
What Causes a Loose Permanent Tooth or Baby Tooth in Kids?
A loose tooth can be caused by advanced gum disease, known as periodontitis, and excessive teeth grinding and clenching (bruxism). However, both of these are more commonly behind a loose permanent tooth in an adult.
The most common cause of loose permanent and primary teeth in kids is injury. A blow to the face while playing sports or hitting the mouth during a fall can cause a tooth to loosen, fall out or become displaced. This is why it’s super important that kids wear a mouthguard when playing sports or doing any physical activity that could result in dental trauma.
Why is a Child’s Loose Tooth a Concern?
Baby teeth, or primary teeth, are important for saving space for the permanent teeth to come in properly. If a baby tooth falls out early, the remaining teeth will shift into the empty space left behind, possibly causing crowding and preventing the underlying permanent tooth from coming in straight or, sometimes, at all.
A loose permanent tooth is even more of a concern, because it won’t be replaced like a primary tooth will. Similar to a baby tooth, when kids are missing a permanent tooth, the teeth surrounding the space will shift. It can also make kids feel self-conscious, cause difficulty chewing and speaking clearly, and impact the health of the remaining teeth and jawbone.
A loose permanent tooth should be treated as soon as possible. It can often be stabilized or reimplanted if your child sees a dentist within an hour or two of the injury.
What to do if a Child’s Tooth is Loose?
If your child sustains a dental injury, you’ll first want to check for bleeding and swelling. If you suspect your child has a concussion or fractured jaw or you’re unable to control the bleeding, head to the emergency room.
Once you’ve ruled out a medical emergency, call your Brooklyn kids’ dentist right away. Depending on the severity of the injury and whether the tooth is in danger of falling out, you may need to visit within one to two hours to have the tooth reimplanted, repaired and/or stabilized.
How to Stabilize a Loose Tooth at Home
While you’re at home and getting ready to head to the dental office, look for chips or cracks in the tooth. If you spot any, try to gather the pieces of the tooth and bring them with you to your child’s appointment.
As for how to stabilize a loose tooth at home, if the tooth is straight and only slightly loose, you won’t need to do anything. Just be sure your child doesn’t eat anything, poke at the tooth with their tongue or put too much pressure on it. You’ll still need to visit the dentist to have it evaluated.
If the tooth is knocked out of place or dangling, you can stabilize the loose tooth by gently moving it in place and pushing it back up into the socket so that it’s level with the other teeth. Have your child bite down on a piece of gauze to hold it in position.
If a tooth ends up falling out completely, find the tooth and hold it by the end, avoiding touching the tooth’s root. Carefully rinse the tooth off with milk. Try to gently reimplant it by pushing it back into the socket and having your child bite down on gauze. If that’s not possible and your child is old enough not to swallow it, have them hold the tooth in their mouth against their cheek. Or, store the tooth in a cup of milk, Hank’s Balanced Salt Solution or saliva and visit the dentist right away.
How is a Child’s Loose Tooth Treated?
When you visit with a Brooklyn kids’ dentist at our practice, they’ll carefully examine your child’s mouth. They may take digital x-rays if they suspect there is another injury to the mouth or teeth.
For a tooth that’s straight and just a little loose, we’ll probably have your child stick with a soft foods diet for several days. This will often allow the tooth to heal and re-attach itself.
If your child’s baby tooth is extremely loose or crooked, we may try to re-implant the tooth. However, we don’t usually manipulate baby teeth too much, because we don’t want to damage the permanent tooth below it. If it can’t be reimplanted, an extraction could be needed. We can then place a dental space maintainer to prevent the other teeth from shifting and causing crowding.
When a child has a loose permanent tooth, we make every effort to save the natural tooth. We’ll gently re-implant the tooth and may splint the loose tooth to stabilize it. When tooth splinting, we use bonding material or, sometimes, a dental crown to join the loose tooth to nearby stable teeth. This allows the tissues and bone to heal, while preventing any further movement.
If a child’s permanent tooth falls out and can’t be reimplanted, we’ll chat with you about their tooth replacement options, such as a dental implant or bridge.
Need an Emergency Pediatric Dentist in Brooklyn?If your child has a dental injury that causes a loose tooth, call Bitesize Pediatric Dentistry right away. We’ll get your child in for an emergency visit at our Park Slope, Williamsburg or DUMBO office. We can also walk you through what to do, including how to stabilize a loose tooth at home, to increase the chances your little one’s tooth can be saved.