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Health

Tooth mobility: How to know if your teeth are shifting, and what to do about it

Two specialists from NYU’s College of Dentistry explain why teeth move and change position.
26 Sep 2016 – 5:13 PM EDT

It's very common for adults to experience shifting and moving teeth. When detected early, tooth mobility can be a routine problem with a clear solution. But waiting can be dangerous. In fact, "tooth mobility" is one of the most common causes of partial or complete tooth loss. And it doesn't just affect older people; it can occur at any age, even in adolescents and young adults. That's why it's important to make regular visits to a dentist.

Among the causes of tooth mobility:

  • Gum disease

"Advanced gum disease “ or periodontal disease (periodontitis) is the most common cause of tooth mobility. The disease is a sign that the bone and soft tissues that maintain teeth in their position have been destroyed.
Mobility due to disease can be minimal, moderate or severe. Often, a patient will have inflammation and bleeding gums, also, due to inflammation created by bacteria that's accumulated in the gums ( healthy gums do not bleed). With time, the bleeding can become more intense and spontaneous and may not be the only symptom.


The disease also causes bad breath.

Since pain does not manifest in the early stages of the disease, it is important to check with your dentist regularly.

  • Occlusal trauma

Teeth that have shifted could also be caused by excessive force to the teeth and the supporting structures.
The reasons for such force vary, and may be attributed to bruxism (grinding), oral trauma or loss of several teeth (the remaining teeth are more free to move). Patients with tongue rings may also experience trauma, due to the habit of running the ring along their teeth, especially the front teeth.

  • General disease that can affect the supporting tissues

Some systemic diseases can cause dental mobility. Although not very common, patients with diseases such as “multiple myeloma," some lymphomas and scleroderma may develop teeth mobility.

Other systemic diseases such as uncontrolled diabetes can accelerate periodontal disease and tooth mobility.

The cause(s) of tooth mobility should be detected early to avoid tooth loss. Your dentist is the best person to advise you.

*Dr. Analia Veitz-Keenan is an associate professor of oral and maxillofacial pathology, radiology and medicine at NYU Dentistry. Dr. Richard Niederman is a professor and the chair of Epidemiology and Health Promotion at NYU Dentistry. For more information or to become a patient, visit the New York University College of Dentistry.

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