dental instruments and oral health

What is Diastema (Spaced Teeth)?

A person with diastema has a space or gap between two or more teeth. Gaps can range from barely noticeable to large. Midline diastema, which appears as a gap between the two upper front teeth, is the most common. Although, 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.

Also, many children have spaces between their primary (baby) teeth, but they often disappear once the baby teeth shed and permanent teeth grow in.

“98 percent of 6-year-old children have midline diastema, typically in their primary teeth. However, as permanent teeth fully erupt, the percentage of diastema decreases to about 49 percent in children between 10 and 11 years old.

Lastly, only 7 percent of adolescents between 12 and 18 years of age have midline diastema.”

Causes of Diastema

Diastema can be attributed to genetics, bad habits, and/or abnormal skeletal development. Common causes of gaps include:

Genetic & Skeletal Factors

Some people have permanent teeth that are too small for their jawbone. When permanent teeth fully grow in, there may be spaces 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 diastema can be passed down through generations.

Overgrowth of Gum Tissue

Tooth gaps are not always determined by genetics. For example, some people may experience an overgrowth of gum tissue between two or more teeth. This overgrowth is often triggered by gingival hyperplasia (gum enlargement), which is caused by plaque build-up and results in inflammation, bleeding gums, and tissue overgrowth. If the condition becomes severe, gaps can form between teeth.

Poor Childhood Habits & Irregular Swallowing Reflexes

Long-term pacifier and bottle use, finger sucking, and thumb sucking contribute to diastema. Other habits that may result in gaps include breathing through the mouth and thrusting the tongue against the front teeth.

Additionally, irregular swallowing reflexes and poor chewing habits can cause diastema. If a child already has gapped teeth due to genetics, these habits can also worsen the condition.

Diastema Treatment Options

The type of treatment depends on the patient’s age and whether the diastema is mild, moderate, or severe. Common treatment options include, but are not limited to:

No Treatment

Tooth gaps typically do not pose any complications or health concerns. If this is the case, patients can choose to keep the diastema.

Braces

Dental braces are commonly used to fix tooth gaps and other forms of misalignment in children. If a patient has gapped teeth and another form of malocclusion (misalignment), an orthodontist will typically recommend braces over dental restorations or cosmetic procedures.

Clear Aligners

Clear aligners are a type of orthodontic treatment that corrects diastema and other forms of misalignment in children, teens, and adults. Specifically, Invisalign offers a 16-month treatment that can correct most cases of diastema. Aligners are a virtually invisible alternative to braces and cost about the same.

Patients also receive a new set of aligners every two weeks and must wear each set for 22 hours per day. Additionally, if a patient has gapped teeth and another form of malocclusion, an orthodontist may recommend clear aligners over restorations or cosmetic procedures (listed below).

Dental Bonding

Dental bonding is an affordable restorative treatment option that fixes chipped, cracked, spaced, or damaged teeth. Treatment consists of a special adhesive, a high-intensity curing light, and tooth-colored composite resins. The materials are bonded to the teeth and fill any imperfections.

Also, people who have a few gaps between their teeth can opt for bonding treatment over invisible aligners or braces. Although, if a patient also has moderate to severe teeth misalignment, most dentists recommend braces or aligners instead of dental bonding.

Veneers (Adults Only)

Composite veneer bonding and porcelain veneers are common cosmetic treatment options for diastema. Dental veneers are thin, customized shells of tooth-colored materials. In short, they fit over the front of teeth and improve a patient’s appearance by changing the shape and color of teeth. However, treatment is expensive and can cost up to $1500 per tooth.

Dental Restorations

Restorations, including crowns, bridges, or implants, can treat many cases of moderate diastema in adults. Although, dental restorations, bonding, or veneers may be recommended over braces or clear aligners if a patient has normal occlusion.