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What is Tooth Subluxation?—Everything You Need to Know

Experiencing a dental injury can be alarming, especially when it affects the stability of your teeth. One such injury, often overlooked but significant, is tooth subluxation. 

So what is tooth subluxation, and why is recognizing the first signs and symptoms of this condition important? 

As with all oral injuries, knowing the causes of preventive measures for tooth subluxation can go a long way in reducing the risk of such injuries, especially for people who are involved in high-risk injuries. 

From understanding its causes and identifying its symptoms to exploring treatment options and preventive strategies, we will tell you everything you need to know about tooth subluxation and how to manage and prevent this dental condition effectively. 

What is Tooth Subluxation?

Tooth subluxation refers to the partial dislocation or loosening of a tooth within its socket due to trauma. 

This condition, often resulting from trauma, is characterized by increased mobility of the affected tooth without complete displacement. Unlike a fully knocked-out tooth, a subluxated tooth remains in place but may exhibit increased mobility and discomfort.

Common Causes of Tooth Subluxation

Trauma

Contact sports like football, basketball, and hockey often pose a high risk of dental injuries, including tooth subluxation. Tooth subluxation can also be caused by falls, car accidents, or any direct blow to the face that can cause your tooth to become partially dislodged. 

Bruxism

Chronic teeth grinding or clenching, especially during sleep, can weaken the periodontal ligament and surrounding tissues, making the teeth more susceptible to subluxation.

Dental Procedures

Overly aggressive dental treatments or accidents during dental procedures by inexperienced dentists can sometimes result in tooth subluxation.

Orthodontic Movement

Rapid or excessive force applied during orthodontic treatments can sometimes lead to subluxation, especially if the teeth are moved too quickly.

Periodontal Disease

Advanced periodontal disease can weaken the supporting structures of the teeth, increasing the likelihood of subluxation from minor trauma or pressure.

Biting on Hard Objects

Biting down on hard foods (like nuts or ice) or objects (like pens) can cause sufficient force to partially dislodge a tooth.

Who Does Tooth Subluxation Affect the Most?

Tooth subluxation can affect individuals of all ages, but certain groups are more susceptible to this type of dental injury. These groups commonly include:

  • Children and adolescents who have developing teeth
  • Athletes who participate in contact sports like football and hockey or even non-contact sports like gymnastics and skateboarding
  • People who grind or clench their teeth, particularly during sleep, putting excessive pressure on their teeth and supporting structures
  • Those with advanced gum disease and weakened support structures around their teeth
  • People with poor oral hygiene
  • Older adults with weaker gums and teeth
  • Elderly people who are prone to falls that result in facial and dental injuries
  • Patients undergoing orthodontic treatment and facing increases tooth mobility

What are the Symptoms of a Tooth Subluxation?

Pain & Discomfort

One of the most immediate and noticeable symptoms of tooth subluxation is pain, particularly when pressure is applied. This occurs because the injury disrupts the normal positioning and stability of the tooth, causing the periodontal ligament to stretch or tear. As a result, any force exerted on the tooth during biting or chewing can lead to sharp pain.

Persistent Aching or Throbbing Sensation

You may also experience a persistent dull ache or throbbing sensation. This ongoing discomfort is often due to inflammation and irritation of the tissues surrounding the tooth, including the gums and the nerve endings within the tooth’s pulp. The throbbing pain can worsen over time, especially if the injury is not promptly addressed.

Increased Sensitivity

A subluxated tooth can become highly sensitive to temperature changes. This sensitivity is a result of the exposed dentin or nerve endings, which react to hot or cold stimuli. Drinking hot coffee, eating ice cream, or even inhaling cold air can trigger a sharp, fleeting pain. The affected tooth may also exhibit heightened sensitivity to touch. Simply brushing the tooth or touching it with the tongue can cause discomfort. 

Swelling & Tenderness

Inflammation is a natural response to injury. In the case of tooth subluxation, it often manifests as swelling and tenderness in the gums surrounding the affected tooth. This swelling is due to the accumulation of fluids and immune cells in the area as the body attempts to heal the injury.

Bleeding

Bleeding is another common symptom, particularly immediately following the injury. The trauma that causes tooth subluxation often results in damage to the blood vessels within the gums, leading to noticeable bleeding. This bleeding can persist until the tissue begins to heal.

Discoloration

Over time, a subluxated tooth may change color, typically becoming gray or darkened. Discoloration often indicates that the blood supply to the tooth has been compromised, which can lead to the death of the pulp tissue.

Additional Symptoms to Monitor

Pulp Damage: 

Signs of pulp necrosis (death of the tooth pulp), which can include discoloration and persistent pain.

Infection:

Signs of infection, such as increased pain, pus, or abscess formation near the affected tooth.

Secondary Damage:

Damage to adjacent teeth or structures in severe cases.

How Will Your Dentist Diagnose a Tooth Subluxation?

In order to correctly diagnose a tooth subluxation, your dentist will ask for your patient’s history and symptoms and then begin the evaluation. The dentist will then;

  • Check whether your tooth is loose or not
  • Examine whether your tooth is sensitive or tender to touch
  • Tap your tooth and listen for a high-metallic sound
  • Do a complete X-ray of your teeth
  • Perform a pulp sensibility test to check if there is any damage to your tooth pulp

How Can You Prevent Tooth Subluxation?

Now that you know what is a tooth subluxation, you can also learn about the different ways you can prevent one. 

Use Mouthguards:

Wear custom-fitted mouthguards while participating in contact sports such as football, hockey, basketball, and martial arts. This protective gear helps absorb and distribute impact forces, reducing the risk of tooth subluxation.

Practice Caution:

Be mindful of your surroundings and potential hazards that could lead to falls or impacts to the face. Taking precautions and avoiding risky behaviors can significantly lower the risk of dental injuries.

Schedule Regular Dental Visits: 

Schedule routine dental visits for professional cleanings, examinations, and early detection of dental issues that could predispose you to tooth subluxation.

Proper Oral Hygiene:

 Brush and floss your teeth regularly to maintain strong teeth and healthy gums. Good oral hygiene helps prevent gum disease and reduces the likelihood of tooth subluxation due to weakened periodontal support.

Prompt Treatment of Dental Injuries:

 Seek prompt dental care if you experience a dental injury or trauma. Early evaluation and treatment can help prevent complications such as tooth subluxation.

Conclusions

A tooth subluxation happens when your tooth loosens from its socket due to dental trauma. If you suspect that you are experiencing tooth subluxation, contact your dentist immediately and get a professional opinion to prevent future oral problems. 

Remember, immediate attention is necessary for cases like tooth subluxation. If you get treated at the right time, you can save the tooth and enjoy a complete smile for years to come. 

Visit ProGrace Dentistry to Get Your Tooth Subluxation Treated Today

At ProGrace Dentistry, our specialists are ready to restore stability and comfort to your smile. 

Whether you’ve experienced a dental injury or suspect a tooth subluxation, schedule your consultation today. 

Let’s get your smile back on track!

FAQs

How long does it take for a tooth subluxation to heal?

In general, mild cases where the tooth is minimally displaced may heal within a few weeks to a couple of months. However, more severe cases or those involving damage to the tooth’s pulp or supporting structures may take longer to heal. 

What are the complications of tooth subluxation?

Complications of tooth subluxation can include:

  • Damage to the tooth’s pulp (nerves and blood vessels), which can lead to pulp necrosis
  • Tooth discoloration
  • Increases sensitivity in the affected tooth
  • Loosening of the tooth
  • Gum and bone damage
  • Infection, which can lead to abscess formation

It’s crucial to seek professional dental care promptly if you suspect a tooth subluxation to minimize the risk of complications and ensure the best possible outcome for your dental health.

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