A gap-toothed smile may be cute on a freckle-faced little kid, but what about a professional adult? Diastema, also referred to as gapped teeth, occurs most frequently right in the middle of your smile. While there may be no life-threatening medical concern with diastema, a gap between your teeth can sap your self-confidence. Whether it comes with health concerns or not, you have options when it comes to addressing diastema.
What are the causes of diastema?
It is normal for children to develop diastema as they lose baby teeth and await the arrival of adult teeth. For adults, diastema has a variety of causes, some of which are preventable.
Missing or undersized teeth
Missing teeth, especially the lateral incisors, can cause a gap to form between the front teeth. Teeth will move around in the mouth as long as there is space to move, causing a gap to form.
Oversized labial frenum
The labial frenum is the thin piece of tissue that connects your upper lip with your upper gum. Located in the middle of the upper lip, this tissue sometimes continues to grow down between teeth, forming a gap.
Mismatched teeth and jawbone size
It seems crazy to think that our teeth do not fit our jaws, but this is a common cause of diastema.
Small teeth set in an average-sized jawbone mean gaps will form, sometimes between each tooth. Your body is trying to help you out by providing a spread-out chewing surface.
Genetic and biologic conditions
There are several genetic or biologic conditions that can cause diastema. These include the following:
- Acromegaly: Caused by an excess of growth hormone in childhood
- Ellis-van Creveld syndrome: Occurs when defects appear on two specific genes
- Morquio syndrome: Contributes to abnormal bone development
- Sanfilippo syndrome: A metabolic disorder that can cause diastema and other disorders
Sometimes a gap between the teeth can also form due to habits, especially thumb sucking and incorrect swallowing.
Thumb sucking pushes the upper teeth up and away from the lower teeth. In some cases, this can also cause a gap that persists past childhood and well into adult teeth formation.
Swallowing is a reflexive action, but in some cases, people override that reflex and add a special feature: the tongue thrust. Instead of nestling the tongue in the upper palate, tongue thrusters press their tongue directly on the front two teeth as they swallow. This action pushes the teeth forward and can lead to diastema.
Gum disease can cause bone loss. Bone loss leads to loose teeth that are prone to movement. For the most part, periodontal disease is a completely preventable cause of diastema.
Do I have diastema?
Signs of diastema are not just visual. A gap between teeth, especially one caused by habits, may come with loose teeth and pain when biting or chewing. However, for the most part, diastema is painless.
Your dentist may notice patterns of uneven wear that can eventually cause more problems with your oral health. Uneven wear can contribute to the development of cavity and broken teeth, both of which may lead to more serious conditions (e.g., tooth abscess).
While diastema itself is not painful, the consequences to your oral health can be.
How can I fill the gaps between my teeth?
If you’re in Arizona, treatment starts with a trip to your Phoenix area cosmetic dental clinic to discuss your options. You have several different diastema treatments to explore, including:
- Traditional braces
- Teeth gap bands
- Dental implants
- Dental bridges
- Surgery, in rare cases
Traditional braces are one of the easiest ways to address a gap between teeth, especially if there is more than one spacing issue. Widespread gaps caused by mismatched teeth and jawbone size can be corrected in a relatively short period of time.
A downfall of traditional braces is the appearance. If your diastema is already making you self-conscious, a mouth full of metal may not help.
Invisalign braces are a great solution for patients with multiple gaps who would prefer a more subtle fix.
These clear aligners are worn all day, every day, removed only to eat and brush teeth. For adults with large gaps, Invisalign may not work. If gaps are reasonably small, Invisalign is a great choice.
Teeth gap bands
Gap bands are rubber bands slipped over two teeth at night. These bands bring teeth back together safely and affordably. They work best when there is a single gap.
Treatment takes between two and six months for gaps of four millimeters or less.
Crowns and veneers
Diastema treatments that use adjacent teeth include crowns and veneers.
For diastema caused by a missing tooth, a dental implant may be the best option.
This diastema treatment uses a post installed directly into the jawbone. An artificial tooth is customized to match the size, shape, and color of existing teeth, and then attached to the post.
Dental implants are sturdy, stable, and beneficial for your jawbone.
For gaps as wide as multiple teeth, a dental bridge is an affordable and easy solution.
Dental bridges attach to adjacent teeth with either a crown or a dental implant. For this reason, the existing teeth must be healthy.
Dental bonding uses tooth-colored composite resin, carefully shaped and attached to existing teeth, to fill a gap between teeth.
Of the diastema treatment options, this one might be the least invasive, but it is often just a temporary fix.
For diastema caused by oversized labial frenum, surgery is sometimes the easiest fix. A frenectomy separates the labial frenum from the gum and allows the teeth to move back together.
In very rare cases, surgery to remove portions of the jawbone may be the only way to fix diastema. Patients might opt for this only if the diastema is causing other significant health challenges.
Deciding which option is best for you is between you and your Phoenix area cosmetic dentist. Get in touch today to restore your beautiful smile!