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Can a Loose Adult Tooth Be Saved?

I’m wondering if an emergency dentist can do anything for me. Yesterday, I was reaching for a can on my top shelf and I accidentally knocked one down and it hit me. I put ice on it and it didn’t bruise or anything, so I thought it was ok. I woke up this morning and one of my teeth is really loose. I thought it was just my imagination, but as the day has worn on and I’ve messed with it some, I can tell for sure it’s wiggling. I’m not quite sure what to do with this. Is this something I can wait for my regular office to treat, will it heal on its own, should I see an emergency dentist, or am I going to lose the tooth regardless?


Dear Karen,

First and foremost, stop wiggling it. You should call an emergency dentist. It sounds like you could have stretched or torn your periodontal ligaments. They’re like rubber bands and they help keep your teeth in place. They’re bonded to the tooth and your jawbone. They can stretch and snap as well.

If you keep messing with the tooth and the bands haven’t already snapped, you can break them. You can also make the tooth so loose that it will fall out. The emergency dentist can take steps to stabilize it. This usually involves bonding it to the adjacent teeth, splinting it, or using a similar method to stabilize it. If it’s protected and kept in its place, those ligaments may heal on their own and the tooth will recover. However, the pulp of the tooth may also be damaged. If this is the case, it may need a root canal after the ligaments heal and teeth with root canals typically need crowns to protect them.

That may be relevant in the future, and it’s something to keep in mind, but the main priority is getting that tooth stabilized. While you wait for your appointment, you really need to baby it. Stick to very soft foods, avoid using it to chew, and don’t mess with it or wiggle it. If there is swelling and inflammation, it can push the teeth even more out of alignment, which means every time you bite down, you’re injuring the tooth more. You can take an anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen to help the area calm down and promote healing.

If and when it heals depends on how much damage was done. Minor “sprains” can heal up in a few weeks. Teeth that have been severely damaged can take months to heal. Your doctor will probably want to keep checking it to make sure it’s healing and will give you further instructions for care at your appointment.

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