My Mother’s Teeth are Just Falling Out

I took my mother in for a filling a couple of weeks ago. She is 87 years old. Today she called me and told me a tooth just fell out. I called her dentist and they want her to come in and they’ll do a dental bridge for her. I’m a bit concerned, though. They didn’t even seem to wonder why her tooth fell out. Will this keep happening? Is there an affordable way to help her?

Presley

Dear Presley,

elderly woman smiling

It is wonderful that you are doing your best for your mother like this. Like you, I am concerned about some of what I am hearing. I want to make sure I understand that you said her tooth just fell out. Is that right? For that to happen, it would mean your mother has very advanced periodontitis (gum disease). It would have to be as advanced as it gets. If this is the case, there should have been intervention quite some time ago. I don’t know what your mother’s dentist has been waiting for.

I don’t like the idea of a dental bridge if this is her situation. A bridge is made by suspending a false tooth between two dental crowns that are anchored to the adjacent teeth. This will put additional stress on those teeth, causing them to fail sooner.

I want you to take her to a different dentist and have her evaluated before moving forward. If it is periodontitis, as I suspect, she is going to lose all of her teeth. Ideally, you’d replace teeth with dental implants. However, she is 87 years old and you asked for an affordable dental solution. In her case, I would suggest extracting the teeth and getting her completely removable dentures.

Normally, I do not like to recommend removable dentures because of the bone resorption. However, at your mother’s age it will not have much of an impact on her.

This blog is brought to you by Gilbert Dentist Dr. Matt Roper.

Can a Root Canal Infect a Salivary Gland?

My daughter has had two salivary gland infections and they are both on the same side where she had a root canal treatment done. Is it possible the root-canaled tooth is infecting her salivary gland?

Kerrie

Dear Kerrie,

A woman grabbing her jaw in need of an emergency dentist

I’m sorry about the ordeal your daughter has been facing. That must be painful. The first thing I would suggest is that you have some x-rays done for her tooth with the root canal treatment. In order for the salivary gland to get infected from the root canal, there would have to be an active infection in the tooth.

Root canal failure is fairly common so I wouldn’t be completely surprised if there was an active infection. You should be aware that the chances of a successful procedure go down with each root canal retreatment. If it turns out your daughter does have an active infection, you will have a better chance of success with the follow-up treatment if you go to an endodontist. It isn’t a guarantee, but they specialize in these treatments and will have more experience. Don’t put off the re-treatment. These type of infections are considered dental emergencies.

When a Tooth Cannot Be Saved

Sometimes, a tooth cannot be saved. When that happens, the tooth needs to be extracted and replaced. The best tooth replacement is a dental implant. You didn’t mention how old your daughter is. For her to get a dental implant, she would need to have a fully developed jaw. Until then, a temporary replacement (like a dental flipper) will keep the space open and will cost you less than other replacement options.

If the x-ray determines there is not an active infection, then whatever is going on with her salivary gland will have nothing to do with her dental health. I would suggest further investigation.

This blog is brought to you by Gilbert, AZ Dentist Dr. Matt Roper.