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Ask the Dentist: Is it possible to regrow the bone around a loose tooth?

A loose tooth can sometimes be kept by rebuilding the bone in which it sits, writes Lucy Stock, dentist at Gentle Dental Care in Belfast

Reforming the bone around teeth is possible using surgical techniques but only in appropriate circumstances
Lucy Stock

ONE of the questions that I get asked most frequently from patients with gum disease is, “Can you regrow the bone around my loose tooth?”

People generally want to keep their teeth so it's always exciting when we are able to reform the bone around teeth using quite cool surgical techniques. Doing this makes the tooth feel firmer, making eating easier but, like most things in life, it can only be done in the appropriate circumstances.

When someone suffers from gum disease they characteristically lose chunks of bone from the root surface. This ultimately leaves the tooth swaying to and fro in the mouth. When I'm assessing a tooth to see whether we can turn time back a bit and replace some of the missing bone, I'm looking for certain shapes of bone loss around the tooth.

Imagine the tooth like a castle sitting in a moat that has been drained of water. If the bone looks like a trench that has been dug out around the tooth, then this is generally favourable to be filled up with bone powder. This is in contrast to if the bone has just zipped down in a flat manner, like a fence post stuck in the grass – in this situation regrowing the bone is not predictable.

The bone powder, along with special regenerative gels (Enamel Matrix Proteins or EMPs), stimulate the body to regrow some of the bone around the tooth. This type of surgical procedure can make teeth last longer and put off the day that someone may have to wear a denture.

It's not only extra bone that can help secure a loose tooth; additionally, the gum around the tooth can be thickened up with a gum graft of better-quality gum. This creates a tighter cuff of gum around the tooth holding it more snugly, giving even more comfort to the mouth.

When dentists talk about adding bone in, patients are understandably wary as imaginations tend to run riot. In reality, nowadays due to the advancements in dental anaesthetics, surgical procedures in everyday practice are generally comfortable.

After procedures like this there is a short bit of downtime that is made easier with home pack medications.

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