If you’re concerned about a gap between teeth in your own mouth or your child’s, don’t worry; it’s generally a simple problem to fix. This condition, also known as diastema, is one of a number of bite and tooth alignment problems that orthodontists treat. It’s always best to be proactive about fixing these sorts of issues, as they can cause psychological distress and oral health complications.
Here’s some basic information about a gap between teeth to help you understand the condition and treatment options.
What Is a Gap Between Teeth?
You might not have known what a diastema is, but when you hear about a gap between teeth, it’s pretty self-explanatory. It’s exactly what it sounds like: extra space between two teeth. While it can occur anywhere in the mouth, the gap is often seen between the two center front upper teeth (in the middle of the four upper incisors). Gaps vary in size from very slight to fairly significant. This condition can affect kids and adults. Just because it’s present in baby teeth, though, that doesn’t mean it will be there when the adult teeth come in.
Is a Gap Between Teeth Concerning?
Diastema is often a cosmetic concern for people, making them shy about smiling (especially for pictures), laughing, and otherwise opening their mouth around others. It can also promote buildup on the teeth and gums, potentially leading to sore gums and increasing the risk of gum disease. In some cases, a gap between teeth can affect tongue placement while speaking and cause a lisp or whistling when attempting to make certain speech sounds.
What Causes a Gap Between Teeth?
There are a number of possible causes of diastema. A gap between baby teeth often develops simply because the jaw is growing, but the teeth do not. However, the relation of jaw size and tooth size—both influenced by genetics—can cause diastema with adult teeth, too. Children who suck their thumb or use a pacifier can create pressure on the teeth that gradually pushes them apart. Some people experience similar results from “tongue thrust,” when the tongue pushes against the teeth during swallowing due to an improper swallowing reflex (the tongue should press against the roof of the mouth when swallowing). An overgrowth of tissue at the gumline can also lead to separation of teeth, as can gum disease.
How Is a Gap Between Teeth Treated?
There are several treatment options for diastema. Of course, the severity of the condition and other individual factors affect which one is best for each patient, so consult an orthodontist for personalized guidance. Traditional braces and clear aligners are often an appropriate method for closing the gap between teeth. Bonding or veneers—the application of a tooth-colored composite to teeth to shrink the gap—are also options in many cases. A dental bridge may also remedy diastema. If the condition is caused by overgrowth of gum tissue, the gap may correct with surgical removal of the excess tissue. When gum disease is the underlying cause, it will need to be treated.