What is diastema?
A diastema is a distinctive gap between teeth. The term diastema or gapped teeth is used most often for describing a gap between the two upper front teeth (incisors). The condition is very common in children at the early stages of dental development.
About 50% of children between the ages of 6 and 8 have gapped teeth, but in most children the gap closes naturally after the eruption of the permanent teeth. If the diastema remains after the permanent incisors and canine teeth have erupted, it is possible that the gap will not close of its own. An orthodontic consultation is advisable in these cases.
Causes of diastema and gapped teeth
Apart from natural teeth development there are some other factors that can contribute to the development of a diastema or gapped teeth:
- Size mismatch between teeth and jaws. Small sized teeth or a large jaw create extra space available for teeth, which could move apart from each other causing gapped teeth.
- Missing teeth can also cause a diastema for the same reason.
- Abnormal jaw bone structure either in shape or in the relative angle of left and right side may prevent the upper incisors from touching normally.
- Lip biting - Biting the lower lip may cause the front teetn to drift apart creating a diastema problem.
- Tongue Thrusting - the habit of pushing the tongue against the upper front teeth could cause a diastema and teeth protrusion.
- Oversized labial fraenum - The maxillary labial fraenum is a piece of tissue that extends from under the middle of the upper lip to the gum just above the two upper front teeth. In some situations, the labial fraenum continues to grow and passes between the two front teeth, keeping teeth at a distance and creating what is called a maxillary diastema.
- Lingual fraenum - is the fraenum that attaches the tongue to the floor of the mouth. In some cases it may cause a gap in the front teeth of the lower jaw.
Treatments for Diastema / Gapped Teeth
Many people with diastema feel very comfortable with it and do not look for a way to correct it. Some of them believe that it makes them look sexy. Even some famous actors have not treated their gapped teeth considering it as a part of their personality. But if you do not belong in any of these groups and you think that diastema has a negative effect in your appearance, there are several cosmetic dentistry treatments available for its correction.
The most common treatment options for gapped teeth include:
- Orthodontic treatment - An orthodontist can close a gap between teeth with the use of dental braces by slightly moving the gapped teeth close to each other. For big diastemas, several teeth have to be moved towards the area of the gap, so that there are equal gaps between all front teeth. Orthodontic treatment of diastema provides permanent results but it may take a long time to complete (more than one year for big gaps).
- Bonding or dental veneers – Cosmetic dentists can close a diastema by making the teeth adjacent to the gap to look wider. It is achieved by applying composite material (tooth bonding) or porcelain veneers on the front surface of the teeth. The advantage of the method is that it provides an immediate correction of the diastema in 2 appointments (instant orthodontics), but it can not be used for large gaps because teeth will look abnormally wide.
- Prosthetic dentistry - If the diastema is created because there are missing teeth, the available treatments include dental implants, bridge, or partial denture.
- Fraenectomy – if the diastema is caused by an abnormal fraenum the dentist may suggest a surgery to remove the fraenum before starting any other treatment to close the gap between teeth.
If you have gapped teeth that make you feel uncomfortable, an orthodontist or a cosmetic dentist can advise you on the types of treatments for closing the diastema that can be used in your case.
The cost of orthodontic treatment can be significant and many patients may not afford it if they are not covered by their dental insurance. Learn how to choose a dental insurance plan that will provide the best dental treatment to you and your family.