Generally speaking, no one really cares to have unnecessary attention drawn to their mouth, such as that which occurs with the experience of loose teeth. Even when we are young and having a loose tooth every now and again is normal, there is no denying that it can be quite an uncomfortable experience and one we try to rush to its conclusion. Oftentimes we must learn to push and chew our food away from the loose tooth, and this additional work can cause our gums to tire more quickly. It is usually a great relief when the baby tooth finally falls out, and the new, permanent tooth begins to grow in. But what about when we are adults and the loose tooth is our permanent tooth? We don’t necessarily want it to fall out, but the discomfort it causes on a daily basis may make us consider having it extracted. Fortunately, there may be another solution.
What is Periodontal Splinting
Permanent teeth can become loose for many reasons, including a loss of gum tissue because of infection and disease, an injury, an orthodontic treatment, or even the intense, focused pressure that can be caused by tooth misalignment. Gum infection and disease is often the most common reason for loose teeth, as this condition can reduce the amount of healthy bone that normally supports the teeth, which can then lead to occlusal trauma. Occlusal trauma occurs when normal biting forces are applied to a weakened tooth, causing further damage and weakening of the tooth and its structure.
In some cases, if a loose tooth is properly supported and the main issue underlying its looseness is addressed, it can be strengthened once again. This means that in the case of periodontal disease and occlusal trauma, treatment directed at eradicating plaque, bacteria and infection must occur and the weakened tooth supported. Such support can be provided with periodontal splinting.
With periodontal splinting, a weak tooth is attached to surrounding teeth so that together they are more stable and strong. There are a couple main types of periodontal splinting, including:
- Temporary splinting. Extra-coronal splints are those that are placed outside the crown. Splinting materials are used to bond the enamel of several teeth together, making the weak tooth stronger by association. Intra-coronal splints are those that are placed inside the crown. A small channel is cut into the weak tooth and several surrounding teeth, and then a rigid, custom-formed metal splint is bonded or cemented into place to stabilize the teeth.
- Permanent splinting. This type of splinting is used in cases where it seems unlikely that the weakened tooth will be able to fully stabilize itself again. The weak tooth and several others surrounding it are crowned, and then the crowns are joined together in order to create a permanent splint.
In some cases, loose teeth can be aided in becoming stronger by orthodontic treatments that gently adjust the position of the teeth and allow for the better distribution of bite forces. This process is often considered a bit more complicated than periodontal splinting, and it too requires that the underlying cause for the loose tooth–usually periodontal disease–is fully addressed and resolved first.
It is important to recognize that stellar oral hygiene habits become even more vital where periodontal splinting has occurred, as it is absolutely vital to ensure that bacteria and plaque do not form and build up underneath and around the splinting structures. Individuals with periodontal splints must go above and beyond normal oral hygiene routines, utilizing whatever methods necessary to prevent an exacerbation of their condition.
Periodontal splinting can help enormously in reducing the discomfort caused by loose teeth, and in slowing the process of tooth and periodontal structure loss. That said, periodontal splinting is not always a permanent solution to loose teeth, as it can occasionally occur that there is too much lost bone or periodontal structure for it to naturally regenerate. However, in cases where permanent tooth loss is eventually unavoidable, periodontal splinting can be used while the individual determines what permanent solution they wish to pursue–such as dental implants. Your dentist, Dr. Saferin, will gladly take the time to discuss your various treatment options with you and determine which option is the absolute best option for your own personal needs.