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A diastema is a space or gap between two or more teeth. Gaps can range from being barely noticeable to large. Some people first notice a tooth gap while brushing or flossing.
The most common is a midline diastema, which appears as a gap between the two upper front teeth. But gaps can develop between any teeth in the mouth, not just the upper front teeth.
Some people have small or large gaps between all of their teeth, but this condition is relatively rare. Many children have spaces between their primary (baby) teeth. These gaps often disappear once the baby teeth shed and the larger permanent teeth grow in.
Ninety-eight percent of 6-year-old children have a midline diastema, typically in their primary teeth. As the permanent teeth fully erupt, the percentage decreases to about 49 percent in children between 10 and 11 years old.
Only 7 percent of adolescents between 12 and 18 have a midline diastema.
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A diastema can be attributed to genetics, habits, and/or abnormal skeletal development:
Yes, it can be. Some people have permanent teeth that are too small for their jawbones. When the permanent teeth fully grow in, spaces may develop. A diastema can occur between a few teeth, the two upper front teeth (midline diastema), or all of the teeth.
Teeth and jawbone sizes are usually genetic, which means a diastema can be passed down through generations.
Tooth gaps are not always determined by genetics. Some people may experience an overgrowth of gum tissue between two or more teeth. This overgrowth is often triggered by gingival hyperplasia (gum enlargement).
Advanced gum disease is a common cause of gum enlargement. If the condition becomes severe, gaps can form between teeth.
If gum disease is the cause of diastema, you may experience the following symptoms:
Diastemas can be caused by tooth size, shape, or position differences. Teeth that are too small in relation to the jaw bone size may result in gaps. Additionally, a space may form next to a tooth in the wrong position. Missing teeth can also create gaps.
The labial frenum is a connective tissue band connecting your lips and gums. It attaches your inner lip to the tissue surrounding your two top front teeth (central incisors). An oversized labial frenum can cause a midline diastema.
To fix this condition, a periodontist may recommend a frenectomy. During this procedure, your labial frenum is cut and repositioned.
Childhood habits that can lead to a diastema include:
Irregular swallowing reflexes and poor chewing habits can cause a diastema. These habits can worsen the condition if a child already has gapped teeth due to genetics.
A sudden loss of primary (baby) teeth can cause diastemas. However, these diastemas are temporary. They will go away once the permanent tooth grows in.
How a diastema is fixed depends on the patient’s age and whether the gap(s) is (are) mild, moderate, or severe. Common diastema closure procedures include:
Tooth gaps typically do not pose any complications or health concerns. If this is the case, patients can choose to keep the diastema.
Dental braces are commonly used to fix tooth gaps and other misalignments in children. An orthodontist may recommend braces if gapped teeth occur with another form of malocclusion (misalignment).
Clear aligners are another type of orthodontic diastema treatment. They can also treat other forms of misalignment in children, teens, and adults. Aligners are a virtually invisible alternative to braces and cost about the same.
Dental bonding is an affordable restorative treatment option that fixes chipped, cracked, spaced, or damaged teeth. The treatment uses a special adhesive, high-intensity curing light, and tooth-colored composite resin. The materials are bonded to the teeth and fill any imperfections.
People with a few gaps between their teeth can opt for fillings over invisible aligners or braces. If teeth misalignment is a concern, a dentist will recommend braces or aligners instead of dental bonding.
Composite veneer bonding and porcelain veneers are common cosmetic treatment options for diastema. Dental veneers are thin, customized shells of tooth-colored materials.
They fit over the front of teeth and improve a patient’s appearance by changing the shape and color of teeth. Treatment is expensive and can cost up to $1,500 per tooth.
In adults, various restorations can treat moderate diastemas, usually due to missing teeth. These dental restorations include:
Removable aligners can close small gaps between teeth without conventional braces. You may benefit from a retainer depending on how severe your diastema is and how it formed. Talk with your dentist or orthodontist to determine the best option.
We recommend at-home clear aligners if you have mild teeth misalignment. View our top recommendations.
If the underlying cause of diastema is gum disease (periodontitis), prompt treatment is necessary. Without treatment, gum disease can lead to complications, such as tooth loss. Depending on the severity of the condition, treatment may include:
Gum disease treatment typically includes scaling and planing. This involves removing tartar and bacteria from underneath the gums and around the teeth. Oral or topical antibiotics can also treat the infection and help prevent complications.
Severe gum disease may require surgery. Procedures that treat periodontitis include:
Your periodontist lifts the gum tissue to remove tartar from the pockets around the teeth. Then, they stitch the gums back up.
If bone loss is significant, your periodontist may graft natural or synthetic tissue to promote bone growth. Grafts can also help gum tissue regrow.
It’s not possible to prevent a diastema that’s caused by genetics. However, you can lower your risk of periodontitis-related diastema by:
You can reduce your child’s risk of developing a diastema by:
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Unless the underlying cause of diastema is gum disease, it’s not a health concern. Many consider a gap between their teeth a unique beauty feature. Cosmetic treatments are generally successful for those who’d rather close the gap(s).
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