A gap between teeth is called a diastema. Diastema can occur between any two adjoining teeth; but it mostly occurs between the two upper front teeth. In most cases, gapped teeth are only a cosmetic while in other cases, gapped teeth is a symptom of a more serious dental problem.
Diastema can be caused by any of the following:
- Teeth that are too small for the jaw bone, which results in spaces between teeth.
- An overgrowth of the maxillary labial fraenum – the thin tissue connects the inside of the upper lip to the upper gum directly between the two front teeth. When the tissue overgrowth extends between the two upper front teeth, a gap develops.
- Thumbsucking in children puts forward pressure on the front teeth which can lead to a gap.
- Incorrect swallowing reflexes, wherein instead of the tongue pressing against the roof of the mouth when swallowing, it pushes against the front teeth (a condition known as tongue thrust). Over time, the constant pushing can cause the teeth to separate.
- Periodontal gum disease, wherein the gums and tissue supporting the teeth become damaged by inflammation. This is commonly followed by tooth loss and, subsequently, gaps between teeth.
If your diastema is not associated with another and more serious dental problem, then treatment may only be necessary if you wish to improve the overall appearance of your teeth. There are several treatment options for gapped teeth. Your dentist will advise you on the most suitable option depending on the cause of your diastema.
- Braces. These are the most popular treatment option for gapped teeth. Braces are fixed appliances made up of brackets, wires, and rubber bands that slowly put pressure on teeth and pull them toward the right position. Braces are worn continuously for several months or up to two years, until the problem has been corrected.
- Veneers, dental bonding, or dental crowns. These options involve covering part of a tooth or the whole tooth, and are ideal if the diastema is caused by teeth that are smaller than the others or a chipped tooth. Any one of these can help “close” a gap by “resizing” the problem tooth/teeth. For example, dental bonding uses a resin that can be molded over a chipped tooth to make it whole again and close the gap caused by it.
- Dental implants, a partial denture, or a bridge. Any one of these is suitable if the diastema is caused by a missing tooth.
- Frenectomy. This procedure involves reducing the overgrown maxillary labial fraenum in order to fix the gap between the two upper front teeth. If the treatment is for an older child or an adult, the frenectomy is often followed by further treatment with braces.
- Periodontal treatment. This is necessary for periodontal disease. Once the gums are healthy again, further treatment with braces, a bridge, or a splint is often necessary.
Colgate.com reminds patients with diastema that gapped teeth treated through orthodontics or dental repair will remain closed for good as long as they follow their dentist’s orders regarding treatment, i.e. wearing retainers for the prescribed amount of time after the braces have been removed.
If you notice a space between your teeth that wasn’t there before, visit your dentist. He or she will be able to determine the exact cause and advise you on the proper course of action.