The gap or space that can be found between some people’s teeth is called a diastema. It is more common between the two front teeth of the upper jaw. However, this is not to say that diastemas do not exist between other teeth.
Whenever there is a mismatch between the jaw bone’s size and that of the teeth, an extra space can be created between the teeth or crowding of the teeth can happen. In situations where the size of the teeth is too small for the jaw bone, a diastema can form between the teeth. On the other hand, should the size of the teeth be too large for the jaw, there will be crowding of teeth.
Spaces develop for a few other reasons as well
There are other situations in which there are teeth which are missing or are undersized. The most common occurrence of this is with the upper lateral incisors. These are the teeth that are located right next to the two upper front teeth. This occurrence can cause the development of a diastema.
Another cause of a diastema can be due to an extra large labial frenum. The labial frenum is that piece of skin which extends from the inside of the upper lip to the gum just infront of your upper lateral incisors. There are instances in which this labial frenum grows and passes between the two front teeth. Should this happen, a gap will develop between the teeth as there will be no space for them to close naturally.
There are also some habits which can lead to the development of a diastema. One such habit is sucking one’s thumb. Thumb sucking usually pulls the front teeth forward and a gap is created in the process.
Sometimes, an incorrect swallowing reflex can bring about the development of a diastema. With many people, when they swallow food, the tongue presses against the roof of the mouth. However, this is not the case with everybody. There are some people who, when they swallow food, the tongue presses against the front teeth. As this pressure remains constant over time, a gap is bound to develop.
Some dental diseases such as periodontal gum diseases cause a loss in the bones that support the teeth. As one loses a lot of bone, the teeth become lose. As this movement continues, a gap between the front teeth will develop.
There are situations in which children develop temporary gaps e.g. when they shed their baby teeth. However, these gaps usually narrow down and finally close when the permanent teeth develop.
Ways to Fix Tooth Gap
A diastema does not have to be a permanent problem if you don’t want it to be. Explained here are four different ways of fixing diastemas together with the advantages and disadvantages of it.
- Tooth bonding is the first of these methods. This is advisable for people whose diastemas are very small. Here, the dentist will start by roughening the surface that is meant to be bonded. A cosmetic dentist then places composite on the tooth, shapes it and then colors it. The entire procedure takes an hour or so. The advantages of this procedure are that the teeth appear natural and the tooth does not grind away. If you have opted for this procedure, it is important that you see a cosmetic dentist who has some experience performing such procedures. This is because this is a very delicate procedure that calls for an in-depth knowledge of dentistry.
- If the gap is larger than in the first situation, then filling the gap with composite bonding material is not the best way to go about it. This is because no matter how hard you try it, the gap will still be spotted from afar as it will appear unnatural. In this situation, the reshaping of several teeth is necessary. Porcelain veneers will have to be used here. On the left of this page is an image of Dr. David Frey of Beverly Hills’ masterpiece done for mynewsmile.com. Take note of how the front teeth’s outside edges are reshaped while the rest of the teeth are shaped in such a way that the final result looks totally natural. The main disadvantage of using porcelain veneers in this case is that they are more expensive than bonding.
- Braces can also be used to fix diastemas. Once the teeth are forced to become close together, they can naturally fill the gaps between themselves. The main advantage of using braces is that the teeth are encouraged to fill the gaps naturally by themselves and, as such, there is no artificial material introduced at the end of the procedure. There is therefore no worry of the wearing out of any material. The main disadvantage of this is the time factor. Before you can see the results of using braces, you will have to wait for anywhere between six months to two years. Wearing braces is also very uncomfortable and costly. And with braces, the results may not be permanent. There are some teeth that have a natural tendency to relapse to their original position, rendering your braces almost useless.
- The last way to fill gaps between teeth is by Invisalign. This uses several aligners that are made of clear plastic. All you have to do is wear slide these into your teeth and people will never tell that those are not your natural teeth. Even though there are other brands of these clear plastic aligners, none is as popular as Invisalign. The main advantage of Invisalign is that it takes a much shorter time than braces. However, it costs a lot more.