Gaps Between Teeth: Causes and Solutions

Many people have spaces between their teeth. As Billboard magazine points out, some “celebrities are keeping (and celebrating) their gap teeth,” from reality stars on the bachelorette to famous musicians like “Madonna and Elton John.” Spaces or gaps between the teeth usually aren’t harmful by themselves. They can certainly be a unique, beautiful aspect of your smile. However, some people are embarrassed or bothered by their gapped teeth, and, in some cases, the spaces between your smile can cause oral health problems. At Dr. Cindy Flanagan’s Houston dental office, we’re here to help you with every facet of your smile. In the following blog, we describe the potential causes of gaps between teeth, describe how these could affect your dental health, and offer solutions for patients who want to bring their teeth closer together.

Why Does It Happen?

The technical term for a gap in the teeth is “diastema,” and there are many reasons this condition can occur. These causes include:

  • Childhood dental growth. As children’s baby teeth begin to come in, and as they begin losing their baby teeth to make way for their adult teeth, gaps may appear. These spaces are, of course, completely normal and healthy. Continued tooth growth usually fills them over time.

  • Missing or extracted teeth. Losing or pulling an adult tooth due to severe decay, advanced gum disease, or another oral health issue creates a space between the surrounding teeth. This situation may seem somewhat uncommon, but according to the American College of Prosthodontists, “it is estimated that 178 million Americans are missing at least one tooth.”

  • Naturally small teeth. Some people genetically have smaller teeth than others. These may not fill up your entire mouth, leaving spaces between some teeth.

  • A larger jaw. In some cases, gaps form simply due to the structure of your mouth. If you have a larger jaw, your teeth may not be large enough to completely fill it. This may cause them to spread out, leading to one or more gaps in your smile.

  • A large labial frenum. Your labial frenum is the small flap that connects your upper lip to your gums. If it is lower than usual in your gums and grows between your two front teeth, it may separate them, causing a gap.

  • Unhealthy dental habits. When children use a pacifier or suck their thumbs past age four, this can cause gaps to develop in their teeth. Furthermore, inadequate oral hygiene can lead to the type of decay and gum disease that lead teeth to fall out or require extraction. Dr. Flanagan and our team can help you maintain a clean mouth and learn proper dental hygiene techniques.

  • Tongue thrusting. If your tongue presses against your teeth when you swallow, this can cause gaps to form between your front teeth over time.

  • Oral trauma. You could lose, chip, or break a tooth from being hit in the mouth or falling on your face. If this occurs, it could cause one or more gaps in your smile. If you suffer from an oral injury, we recommend seeing Dr. Flanagan as soon as possible.

These are just some of the possible reasons you might have gaps between your teeth. When you come in for an examination, Dr. Flanagan can formally diagnose your diastema and determine the source of the spaces in your smile.

Gapped Teeth and Oral Health

For many people, having small spaces between the teeth is safe and healthy. However, gapped teeth can raise your risk for certain oral health problems.

First of all, it can be challenging to keep your teeth and gums clean when you have gaps separating your teeth. Food might get stuck between your teeth and under your gums. To make matters worse, the spaces between your teeth might make it more difficult to dislodge plaque or particulate matter. Without thorough cleaning, your teeth and gums could become decayed or infected.

In addition, gapped teeth can appear as a result of or cause orthodontic issues. Crooked teeth can cause jaw soreness or headaches. Misalignment may also raise your risk for other oral health issues, such as cavities or gum disease. Large spaces can cause surrounding teeth to shift in place, creating further crookedness (as well as the oral health problems that could come with this).

Gaps that come from tooth loss or extraction can be particularly problematic when it comes to oral health. These spaces tend to be larger, exacerbating all the issues that come with gapped teeth. Furthermore, the condition that led to the loss or extraction must be properly treated, or it may worsen and affect the rest of your mouth. For example, if you lose a tooth due to periodontitis (advanced gum disease) and do not address the condition that caused the gap, the rest of your mouth could be in danger.

Remedying Gap-Related Issues

If you’re happy with the appearance of gaps in your teeth and these spaces do not pose any inherent oral health issue, Dr. Flanagan and our team can help you maintain a healthy smile by teaching you appropriate hygiene techniques. While brushing and flossing may be more difficult with gapped teeth, they certainly aren’t impossible. At your biannual professional cleanings and examinations, our team will show you how to correctly care for your teeth and gums, including your gaps.

Closing the Gap at our Houston Dental Office

If you don’t appreciate the appearance of the spaces in your smile, or if the gaps between your teeth do put your oral health at risk, Dr. Flanagan and our team can help you treat your diastema. There are a variety of procedures we can perform to close the gap or gaps in your teeth. These include:

  • Dental crowns. If just one tooth is too small or chipped, a tooth-colored crown may work well to correct the issue. This prosthetic fits over the top of your tooth and looks like a natural part of your smile. Dr. Flanagan and our team offer beautiful, customized, natural-looking tooth-colored crowns. This relatively simple treatment process usually takes just two appointments to complete.

  • Dental implants. Inserting a titanium post into your jawbone can help stabilize dental crowns, bridges, or even dentures so that they look and feel more like natural teeth. Implant-supported restorations are an excellent choice to fill the gap if you’re missing one or more teeth. Dental implants replace the root of the missing tooth. Implant-supported prostheses typically have a more realistic appearance, maintain your oral health, are typically more comfortable than traditional restorations, and improve your comfort.

  • Invisalign® orthodontia. If crookedness or misalignment leads to or results from your gapped teeth, Invisalign can help. Invisalign is a comfortable and attractive option for many people, offering numerous advantages over traditional braces. Invisalign trays are discreet, so you don’t have to feel self-conscious while straightening your teeth, and they’re completely removable, so you can eat, drink, brush, and floss as you normally would.

  • Porcelain veneers. This treatment is one of the most valuable and versatile cosmetic procedures on the market. Porcelain veneers are often known as the treatment of the stars because so many celebrities have them. Medical research also supports the success of porcelain veneers: according to an article in the Open Access Macedonian Journal of Medical Sciences, “porcelain veneers show excellent aesthetic results and predictable longevity of…treatment.” These thin porcelain shells fit over your existing teeth, instantly correcting not just gaps, but also crookedness, chips, discoloration, and a host of other cosmetic concerns.

When you come in for a consultation, Dr. Flanagan will assess your diastema, discuss your concerns with you, and formulate a custom-tailored treatment plan to close the gap in your smile.

Want to Learn More About Gapped Teeth?

Dr. Flanagan and our Houston dental team would be delighted to assist you! Contact us today to find out more about gapped teeth and schedule an appointment.

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