Having large gaps between teeth is pretty common. Many people can live well with them. But to some, they may be a matter of concern. That is especially true if the gap is between the front teeth.
The condition is called diastema. A dentist will describe it as a diastema between
the maxillary central incisors.
According to an article published in the Journal of Orthodontics, diastema’s impact slows down with growth. About 98% of 6-year-olds have it, while the number is 49% in 11-year-olds and only 7% in 12–18-year-olds.
In this post, we will discuss the following:
- What causes gaps between teeth?
- Gaps between teeth: Impacts.
- What treatments can be used to close the gaps?
10 main causes of gaps between teeth
1. Tongue thrusting
Tongue thrusting is considered one of the most common causes of gaps between teeth in children.
If a child’s tongue pushes against the teeth instead of the roof of the mouth while swallowing food, it may have diastema.
Repeated thrusting may push the front teeth away from each other. It is like braces or Invisalign in reverse action.
2. Teeth are too small
If your teeth are too small for your jawbone, you may have gaps between your teeth. The gaps may occur between your front teeth as well as other teeth.
Your teeth can be naturally smaller than regular teeth. Genetics or dwarfism can be behind it.
However, other causes can also contribute to it—for example, Down’s syndrome.
Besides, if you had radiation treatment or chemotherapy as a child, your teeth may not fully grow when you become an adult.
3. Thumb sucking
Thumb sucking is a natural habit for children. It soothes them and helps them feel secure.
But it is not only children who suck their thumbs. Some adults like to suck thumbs when they find themselves in stressful situations.
Some adults do it just because they are bored and feel purposeless. Others may do it because they have a behavioral condition called Trichotillomania. You want to pull your hair and eyebrows and suck your thumbs when you develop this condition. You may want to stop doing such things, but you cannot.
Sucking thumbs passively may not be a problem for many. But doing the same aggressively can turn into diastema or gaps between teeth.
4. Gum disease
If you have severe gum infections, you may damage the ability of the tissues and muscles of your mouth to hold your teeth in their correct places.
Gum disease may even affect your jawbones and compromise the strength of the roots of your teeth inside those bones. The result can be widening gaps between teeth.
5. Extra tooth
Having an extra tooth beside or behind your regular set may force your normal teeth to move away from their original positions. The result can be a gap between teeth.
Extra teeth are called supernumerary teeth. You may have one or more supernumerary teeth in your mouth.
Removal of supernumerary teeth is not recommended because the surgery may harm the original teeth.
6. Large frenal attachment
The frenum is the thin fold of muscle fiber that connects your upper lip to your gum.
A study published in Folia Morphologica in 2017 found some correlations between diastema and the size of the frenum. Having a large frenal attachment may cause gaps between your teeth. The simple reason is that more tissues grow between the teeth to push them apart.
We have spoken about having extra teeth in your mouth that can cause gaps between your teeth. Mesiodens is a specific extra tooth that grows right between your front two teeth or behind them.
Mesiodens is generally small and pointy. It can push your front teeth apart to make space for itself, thus causing gaps between the teeth.
8. Dental agenesis
Dental agenesis is a genetic disorder in which a person receives a non-working gene from their parents. It is a rare condition but not impossible to find.
According to NORD, tooth agenesis can be of three kinds: hypodontia, oligodontia, and anodontia. Hypodontia is when you have 1 to 5 teeth missing from your mouth. The condition is called oligodontia if you have six or more teeth missing. When you have all your teeth missing, you have an anodontia condition.
Dental agenesis may also cause one or more teeth not to grow properly. If one of your front teeth is not large enough or equal to the other, you may have a gap between the two teeth.
A small gap between your front teeth may look large if your teeth are angled forward. While it is not a problem for many people, it can cause serious embarrassment in some cultures, especially if you have difficulty posing for a headshot with a closed mouth.
Your teeth may angle forward as a result of aggressive tongue thrusting. For example, in some cases, for many Asians and Africans, the case is natural.
10. Dental Skeletal Discrepancy
Case Reports in Dentistry show that skeletal discrepancy may contribute to gaps between teeth.
The skeletal discrepancy occurs when there is a noticeable difference in the growth and position of the upper and lower jaws. If the jaws do not grow equally, the total morphology of the face may change over time. You may have noticed people with their lower jaw smaller than their upper jaw or their lower half of the face smaller than its upper half.
A discrepancy like this can create abnormalities in the mouth and the position of the teeth within the mouth. For example, if the lower jaw grows less, the teeth will have to adjust by crowding your teeth on a smaller space or keeping the teeth smaller.
On the other hand, if the upper jaw grows more than it should, the teeth will have more space on the jawbone to scatter themselves, thus leaving gaps between them.
Jawbones can grow abnormally as a result of Acromegaly. You may have this condition if your pituitary gland produces too much growth hormone during adulthood.
5 impacts of having gaps between teeth
1. Speech impairment
Having a gap between your front teeth can contribute to speech impairment. Air can escape through the gap, causing lisps. Some people may find it difficult to pronounce the s, th, ch, j, and z sounds properly.
2. Tooth decay
Gaps between teeth can work as plaque traps to reduce your oral health. Food particles can easily get trapped in the gap and cause bacterial infection. Such a situation may occur when the gap is between teeth at the back of your mouth.
3. Teeth misalignment
If the gap is large, the adjacent teeth will fill it. The result is teeth misalignment.
Misaligned teeth can lead to speech impairment.
4. Excess wear and tear
Misaligned teeth may experience excessive wear and tear if left untreated. They may also lead to fractured or cracked teeth, constant pain in jaw muscles, headaches, and gum disease.
5. Low quality of life
According to the Journal of Pharmacy & Bioallied Sciences, correcting young people’s dental gaps may improve their quality of life by as much as 50%.
The improvement begins right with the beginning of orthodontic therapy. Both male and female patients responded to the therapy. The improvement continued through the treatment and reached about 50% after the therapy.
This data proves gaps between teeth reduce the quality of life among diastema patients.
5 recommended treatments to close the gaps between teeth
According to experts, gaps under 2mm between teeth will close naturally, while gaps over 2mm may require intervention. If the patient is a child, the gap will get smaller faster than if the patient is an adult.
We have gathered several intervention methods that your dentist may choose for you if you have diastema.
1. Dental braces
Braces are the most popular solution to gaps between teeth. Braces work in your favor by putting pressure on the two teeth on both sides of the gap. Little by little, the teeth get closer to each other, and you have a beautiful smile in about 12-18 months.
While treating the gap between your teeth, braces can also treat teeth misalignment and crossbite. Crossbite is a condition where your upper teeth fit inside your lower teeth.
2. Invisalign clear braces
Many people do not like to wear braces. They want something discreet like Invisalign clear aligners.
Invisalign is invisible and removable. Apart from removing gaps between your teeth, it can treat overbite, crossbite, underbite, crowded teeth, and open bite. It is made of SmartTrack, a transparent plastic material.
3. Dental resin bonding
Resin bonding is probably the most cost-effective way of treating gap teeth.
Your dentist will apply a layer of tooth-colored composite resin to the teeth on both sides of the gap, thus reducing the gap to an acceptable standard.
While treating gap teeth, composite bonding can also treat any cracks in your teeth.
Veneers are small shells that are bonded to your teeth. They can remove any small gaps you may have between your teeth.
You can choose composite veneers or porcelain veneers. Porcelain veneers are costlier than composite veneers. But any of them will do the job.
5. Dental crowns
Many dentists will recommend dental crowns as a treatment for gap teeth.
Crowns cover up your natural teeth completely. Dental crowns can be the solution for you if the gap between your teeth is not huge.
Though artificial, crowns look like natural teeth. They can be made of zirconia, all-porcelain material, porcelain-fused-to-metal, and metal. With proper oral care, they last up to 30 years.
Crowns may be good for your gap teeth if they are relatively small.
Gaps between teeth: Final word
There are many reasons for you to have gaps between your teeth. Gap teeth are an aesthetic problem and not a functional problem. In the case of younger patients, the condition may disappear with time. Adult patients may require some orthodontic interventions.
Gap teeth can affect your oral health. If left untreated, it can turn into gum disease, tooth decay, and misalignment. It can also cause speech impairment in some patients.
Many treatments are available within the cosmetic dentistry industry to treat gaps between teeth. You can choose dental bonding, crowns, veneers, Invisalign braces, or other braces to reduce the impact of gap teeth on your life.
Gaps between teeth, or gap teeth, can be caused by many conditions, including pernicious habits like tongue-thrusting and thumb-sucking, gum disease, supernumerary tooth, large frenal attachments, mesiodens, dental agenesis, tooth proclinations, and skeletal discrepancy.
You can choose braces, Invisalign clear braces, dental crowns, composite resin bonding, or veneers to reduce the gap between your teeth. Gap teeth in young patients will disappear with time; no treatment is required.
- American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. The midline diastema: a review of its etiology and treatment. 27:3, 1995:171-179.
- Journal of Pharmacy & Bioallied Sciences. Changes in quality of life during orthodontic correction of midline diastema. 2014; 6(Suppl 1): 162–164
- Folia Morphologica. Diastema size and type of upper lip midline frenulum attachment. 2017;76(3):501-505.
- NORD – National Organization for Rare Disorders, Inc. Tooth Agenesis.
- Case Reports in Dentistry. Direct Midline Diastema Closure with Composite Layering Technique: A One-Year Follow-Up. Published: 06 Jan 2016.