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:

Habits

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.

Periodontal disease

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
  • Invisalign
  • Teeth gap bands
  • Crowns
  • Veneers
  • Dental implants
  • Dental bridges
  • Bonding
  • Surgery, in rare cases

Traditional braces

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 correct