Hesperian Health Guides

What does it mean if a tooth is loose?

In this chapter:


Baby teeth become loose when children are between 6 and 12 years old. This is normal. If a loose baby tooth does not have a cavity, and if the gums around it are healthy, there is probably a permanent tooth growing under it.

But a tooth might be loose because it is broken or because it is sick from an abscess or gum disease. Either can destroy the bone around the tooth’s roots.

a row of teeth with 2 loose ones.
with boil
gum disease

When bone is lost, the tooth becomes loose. A loose tooth hurts and usually must be taken out.

There is no medicine to make bone grow back around the roots of loose teeth. All you can do is stop the infection from getting worse.


  1. Let the students look into each other’s mouth for loose baby teeth. Look carefully to see why a tooth is loose.
    DENT Ch4 Page 54-2.png

    Touch the gum and bone beside the loose tooth. You can feel a bump — it is the new permanent tooth growing.

    Save the baby tooth after it has fallen out. Look to see how the permanent tooth has eaten away its root by pushing against it.

  2. Look for teeth that have cavities or gum disease around them. The students can do this with each other, and then later at home.
    (Remember: they must wash their hands!)
    DENT Ch4 Page 54-3.png

    A tooth that has some of its root showing is probably loose.

    Using your fingers or the handles of two spoons, rock the tooth back and forth gently. See how much it moves, and ask how much it hurts.

    Tell the person what he can do to prevent other teeth from becoming loose.

This page was updated:17 May 2024