Every adult remembers the thrill and excitement of wiggling a loose tooth with your tongue or finger as a small child. But excitement is the last thing you will feel as an adult if you notice that one (or several) of your permanent teeth are loose.

Some causes of loose teeth in adults are harmless, while others require the care of a dental professional to save the tooth before it’s too late.

Causes of Loose Permanent Teeth

Noticing a loose tooth as an adult can be a terrifying experience. When the problem is detected early, more often than not, the tooth can be saved with the help of your dentist. Knowing the causes of loose permanent teeth, and the signs and symptoms of the top contributors can help you in keeping your teeth intact and avoiding expensive tooth replacement options.

Gum Disease

Also known as periodontitis, gum disease involves inflammation and infection of the gums. It’s typically caused by poor dental hygiene habits. When brushing and flossing aren’t performed properly, gum disease can easily develop. Dental plaque, which contains bacteria, sticks to the teeth and hardens over time. Once hardened, this plaque is referred to as tartar. Tartar causes the gums to pull away from the teeth, creating pockets that become infected.

Other signs of gum disease include:

  • Gums that are tender, red, painful, or swollen
  • Gum recession
  • Changes in the way your teeth fit together when you bite down
  • Gums that bleed when you brush your teeth

The process of gum disease breaks down the bone and tissue that support your teeth and keep them in place, causing the teeth to become loose. Any signs of gum disease should be checked by a dentist as soon as possible. Early detection and treatment can prevent tooth loss.


Elevated levels of estrogen and progesterone during pregnancy can affect the bones and tissues in your mouth. An oversupply of these hormones can alter the periodontium, which is the collection of bones and ligaments that support the teeth and keep them in place. When the periodontium is affected, one or more teeth may feel loose.

While feeling your teeth become loose can be terrifying, the changes to your periodontium levels are only temporary and will resolve after pregnancy. Even though they are not a cause for concern, anyone experiencing pain or loose teeth during pregnancy should still see a dentist to rule out gum disease and other oral health issues.

The American Dental Association and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists state that it is perfectly safe for pregnant women to have dental checkups, cleanings, and X-rays.

Injury to the Teeth

Your teeth are pretty strong and durable, but an impact of force from a car accident or a blow to the face can damage teeth and surrounding tissue. The result may be chipped or loose teeth. Anyone who suspects that an injury has damaged the teeth should see a dentist as soon as possible. Sports injuries, accidents and falls, for example, can easily cause dental damage that you might not even be aware of until it’s too late.

Teeth Grinding

Clenching the teeth during times of stress, or grinding your teeth at night can easily wear down the tissues and cause the teeth to become loose. Many people are unaware of their teeth clenching or grinding habits until they result in jaw pain. A dentist may be able to detect the problem before the teeth are permanently damaged.

Signs of teeth grinding include:

  • Teeth that are flattened, fractured, chipped or loose
  • Worn tooth enamel, exposing deeper layers of your tooth
  • Increased tooth pain or sensitivity
  • Tired or tight jaw muscles
  • Jaw, neck or face pain
  • A dull headache starting in the temples
  • Sleep disruption

See your dentist right away if you have any of the symptoms listed above. Your dentist may suggest preventative measures to protect against further wear on your teeth, including wearing a night guard to keep upper and lower jaws separated and avoid further damage.

When to See Your Dentist About Unsteady Teeth

These causes can be extremely serious – and lead to larger problems than a shifting bite. If you notice that a permanent tooth is feeling loose, it’s time to get professional help. Dr. Okamura can assist in treating the underlying cause of your loose teeth, and help you to take any other necessary steps to prevent further damage. If you’re experiencing loose teeth, make an emergency appointment today!

Dr. Kim Dr. Kim

Dr. Kim Okamura

I'm Dr. Kim Okamura and this blog is a product of my love of dentistry. I dedicate it to all the patients I have served so that they may better understand my craft. The information here will give you and others the power to maintain and protect one of your most priceless gifts ... your SMILE.