By Mac Lee
A visit from the Tooth Fairy is as exciting as Santa Claus for most young children. I have never heard of an adult having that same excitement over the loss of a needed tooth.
Just because we age doesn’t meant we lose teeth like we lose hair, lose our figure, etc. Yesterday, I had an 85-year-old patient from Garwood who started seeing my grandfather 75 years ago. He has been coming to this office every six months for that amount of time. He has no missing teeth and all of them are rock solid. My point of the story is age, in itself, is not a reason for teeth to get loose or for tooth loss.
The toothless cartoons of grandma and grandpa are more about disease than they are age.
There are two major reasons adult teeth get loose; gum disease and trauma.
For a scientist, gum and bone disease is an incredibly complicated process, one that would bore most people. Let’s make it simple; if you get a thorn in your skin and don’t take it out, the area will turn red, begin to swell and if left in for days, will start turning yellow and continue to swell until the body totally rejects the thorn.
If you have a certain kind of bacteria on the roots of your teeth, the body will think of it as a foreign agent much like the thorn. The gum around the tooth begins to swell, turn red, bleed, etc. Bottom line if left untreated, the bone will go away, the tooth will get loose and the body will reject it just like the thorn.
Most importantly, the reader must know there is no pain with this infection/inflammation process. Periodontal disease is called the the silent killer of teeth. Periodontal disease it the No. 1 reason people lose their teeth, not age.
Getting hit in the mouth, for whatever reason, can loosen teeth. If the tooth is not damaged and a dentist can stabilize it, it will tighten up again and be perfectly OK. If the tooth keeps receiving the same blow, it will never tighten up and may even die.
Like gears in a car, if the teeth don’t fit together correctly, it is about the same as constantly getting hit. When upper and lower teeth connect, which they have to do when one chews, they have to hit in a way that sends the force vertically down the teeth. If teeth hit and the forces are from the side and not the top, something has to give. This sideways force can also cause teeth to be loose.
I have patients who I diagnosed with loose teeth more than 30 years ago, yet they still have those teeth, and they still have the proper amount of bone supporting the teeth. It is simply in their nature to clinch and grind the teeth, which causes the slight mobility.
Because there are so many variables in both disease and bite issues, only a highly trained dentist can oversee these complex issues. Here are some signs that indicate problems from gum disease or bite:
Bleeding gums on brushing or flossing
Red, inflamed teeth
Front teeth beginning to separate leaving spaces that were not there before
Looseness of any or all teeth
Lack of pain means nothing
If the teeth are tight, one can floss and brush the bacteria away.
Loose teeth trap bacteria allowing the bugs to flow into the blood stream affecting all of the organs and compromising one’s overall health. The more embedded the bacteria are, the more they destroy the bone. It is a vicious circle.
For health reasons alone, pick up the phone and call your favorite dentist.
Dr. Mac Lee practices in Edna. He is an international speaker and trainer to dentists. He is dedicated to educate the public about dental disease. To learn more about dentistry, visit drmaclee.com or call 361-782-7191.
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