From Huck Finn’s wide, gapped smile to the highly coveted dents du bonheur (“happy space”) in France, gaps in teeth have worked their way into popular culture across the globe. For many people, widely-spaced teeth, also known as diastema, are just a stage in their normal dental development. Spaced out teeth that persist into adulthood (or form after all adult teeth have erupted), however, can signal more serious issues. When spaces between teeth persist, it’s time to take a closer look.
What causes widely-spaced teeth?
Widely-spaced teeth have a number of different causes. As noted before, spaces between teeth naturally occur in childhood in the period between baby teeth and adult teeth. Normal growth may also account for a temporary widening between teeth, but these are the most innocent of causes.
Other more serious causes of spaced out teeth include:
- Ellis-van Creveld syndrome
- Morquio syndrome
- Sanfilippo syndrome
It’s important to note that there are some cases when widely-spaced teeth are normal and developmentally appropriate. Recognizing the signs of a more serious problem is most important. Widely-spaced teeth are visually apparent, and your dentist can complete a full examination to determine if the cause requires treatment beyond cosmetic work.
This rare condition is caused when the pituitary gland produces too much growth hormone, affecting the spaces between teeth. A gap between teeth is a specific result for adults, with a different effect in childhood.
Ellis-van Creveld syndrome
This genetic condition is caused when defects are present in one or two specific genes. Multiple systems in the body can be affected, including teeth.
Widely-spaced teeth is just one complication of this treatable but as-yet-incurable disease. Patients may also be born with cleft palate and natal teeth (teeth present at birth).
Injury can include any blow to the jaw that could cause teeth to shift in such a way that causes gaps. If the gap does not close as the injury heals, this could mean that the shift is permanent.
This is also a genetic condition that has a number of potentially serious conditions, including abnormal development of bones, including the vertebrae.
Sanfilippo syndrome is closely related to morquio syndrome in that is genetic and is a metabolic disorder that makes breaking down long chains of carbohydrates difficult.
Widely-spaced teeth is one symptom in a list that also includes behavioral issues, sleep disorders, and joints without full mobility.
Can widely-spaced teeth affect my oral health?
Spaced out teeth have several long-term effects on oral health.
Whenever a tooth is misaligned, no matter the cause, it affects other teeth. Widely-spaced teeth that do not resolve themselves can cause difficulties with bite, resulting in uneven wear on teeth.
Uneven wear is indicated as a cause of cavity and broken teeth, both of which can eventually lead to tooth abscess. All of these conditions related to oral health can be accompanied by significant pain, and, in some cases, lead to other complications relating to inflammation in the body.
Widely-spaced teeth can also trap food particles and increase your chances of developing gum disease caused by decay. People who eat a high-sugar, high-fat diet are more likely to develop gum disease related to spaces between teeth.
Mentally, widely-spaced teeth can be challenging. For b