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When you look in the mirror, you may notice small black triangles between your teeth. These are gaps that your gum tissue isn’t filling in.
Although everyone has gingival embrasures, about one-third of adults have open gingival embrasures. These cause the appearance of black triangles between the teeth.1 Sometimes, they are more than a minor cosmetic flaw. They can also be a sign of, and a risk factor for, deeper oral health issues.
Treatment for black triangles will depend on the exact cause. Both surgical and non-surgical procedures can reshape or restore the gum line.
Typically, each gap between someone’s teeth is filled with a little bit of gum tissue, called a papilla. Loss of papillae results in open gingival embrasures or black triangles.
These gaps can form between teeth for various reasons, some more serious than others. Here are some of the most common causes:
Severe gum disease (periodontitis) can have an even worse symptom—bone loss. As someone loses bone, their gums may pull away further, making the black triangles more noticeable.
Brushing or flossing your teeth too aggressively can damage your gums, leading them to pull back and create black triangles.1 Using interdental brushes (wand-like toothbrushes that go between the teeth) too aggressively may also be a contributing factor.5
Other reasons for gingival embrasures to open up between your teeth include:2, 5, 9
Black triangles between your teeth can result from gum recession or bone loss. In addition to oral health problems, black triangles can also contribute to oral health problems.
Some of the factors that lead to black triangles can’t be prevented. Aging, the natural shape of your teeth, and the natural thickness of your gums can all play a role. Black triangles may also be an unfortunate result of necessary orthodontic treatment.
However, many of the common causes of these gingival gaps are preventable. You can reduce your risk of developing black triangles between your teeth by doing the following:
Talk to your dentist or periodontist about what you can do to help prevent gingival embrasures.
Sometimes gum tissue grows to fill the spaces created by dental implants or other restorations.10 But this may not always occur, especially if other factors are involved, like poor oral hygiene.
There are several ways black triangles between teeth can be professionally treated, depending on the underlying cause:
Going easier on your teeth during brushing and flossing can help reduce the appearance of black triangles. You should clean your teeth thoroughly but gently.
Be especially mindful when using oral hygiene products between your teeth, like floss picks and interdental brushes.
Hyaluronic acid is found naturally in your body, such as your skin and cartilage. It plays a key role in inflammation and repairing wounds.
Periodontists can help your gum and bone tissue regenerate by applying or injecting hyaluronic acid. This new growth of healthy periodontal tissue can reduce the black triangles between teeth.11
Two common types of dental restoration can improve the shape of your teeth and fill in any gaps: bonding and veneers.
Dental bonding uses composite resin to fill in the black triangles. The resin may be colored to look like teeth or gum tissue (or both).
Veneers are thin shells made of ceramic, porcelain, or composite resin. Like composite bonding, veneers can give your teeth a more regular and esthetic shape by filling interdental spaces.12
While orthodontic treatment can sometimes contribute to black triangles, it can also be a way to treat them. If your teeth have gaps between them due to misalignment, braces (or clear aligners) can correct the underlying problem.
For people with severe gum disease, gum tissue and bone may need to be surgically added or reattached.
Periodontists and oral surgeons can provide a gum or bone tissue graft. This tissue is usually taken from another part of your body, cadavers, or animals. It can also be made synthetically.
Using minimally invasive techniques, your gums can also be lifted and reattached in a better position.13
Many adults notice black triangular gaps between their teeth. Various things can cause these gaps to form, including gum recession, bone loss, and orthodontic treatment.
Black triangles can affect a person’s appearance, pose an oral health risk, and be a sign of gum disease. Fortunately, a variety of treatments exist.
See your dentist or periodontist if you’ve noticed these small gaps between your teeth. They can help you determine the underlying cause and the right course of treatment.
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