A space or gap between two teeth is called a diastema. While some people have made them famous, like Madonna and Michael Strahan, most people find them to be an embarrassing nuisance. If you have diastema between your upper front teeth, chances are you want it fixed! You can stop worrying because this common problem is seen by orthodontics almost daily, and can certainly be fixed.
What Causes Diastema?
The size of your jaw bone and the size of your teeth should be proportional. When there is a mismatch between the two, this leads to spaces between the teeth or overcrowding. When your teeth are too small for your jawbone, you will experience, what dentists call, diastema. If your teeth are too big for your jaw, the opposite will happen. When your teeth are too big for your jaw, the result is overcrowding.
While this is the most common cause of diastema, there are other reasons spaces can develop between your teeth.
In some cases, teeth might be missing. The most common missing teeth that causes diastema are the upper lateral incisors. These are the teeth next to your two upper front teeth that, when missing, can cause your two upper front teeth to develop a space.
An oversized labial frenum can also be the cause of diastema. The piece of tissue that extends from the inside of your upper lip to the gum above your upper front teeth is called the labial frenum. When this continues to grow past normal development, it can pass between your front teeth. This will create a space in between your teeth that won’t close naturally.
In addition to dental causes for diastema, habits can cause you to develop a space between your teeth. Thumb sucking, swallowing reflexes, and gum disease can all cause diastema. Thumb sucking often leads to the forward pulling of the front teeth. When this occurs on a regular basis, it can cause gaps to develop between the teeth. For people with tongue thrust, the pressure of placing the tongue against the back of the front teeth rather than the roof can push the teeth forward and cause them to develop gaps. The loss of teeth from gum disease caused by improper oral hygiene can also lead to space development.
When Should I Seek Orthodontic Treatment?
You might notice a space in your teeth just by looking in the mirror. In most cases, a dentist can examine your diastema and identify the cause. Whatever the cause, orthodontic treatment can generally reverse the effect of diastema. If you or your child are uncomfortable with a sightly gap between your teeth, talk to an orthodontist about the right treatment available to fix the problem.
The best treatment for diastema is prevention. Although some causes are not preventable, some can be prevented with habit changes. Maintaining proper gum health is important for your teeth. Brush and floss your teeth twice a day to avoid gum disease. If your child has tongue thrust, talk to a speech therapist about ways you can train them to re-learn how to swallow. And, try to break the habit of thumb sucking as early as possible.
If prevention isn’t possible, orthodontic treatment can effectively fix diastema. Braces can move your teeth together. If your lateral incisors are too small, your orthodontist might suggest crowns or veneers. Diastema that is caused by missing teeth can be fixed through restorative or cosmetic dentistry. If the cause of your diastema is an oversized labial frenum, this can be fixed through an oral surgery called a frenectomy.
Regardless of what caused your diastema, it can be fixed with the right treatment. When the space is closed through orthodontic treatment, the solution usually sticks. If you or someone you love has a space between their front teeth that is causing them discomfort in their physical appearance, talk to a professional today to find out how to give you a smile you can be confident about.