Tooth Gap: Causes, Treatments And Prevention

Tooth gap causes and treatment

A tooth gap also known as diastema is a space between two teeth. It appears most often between the two upper front teeth. However, tooth gaps can occur between any two teeth. Tooth gap is a common occurrence that is not life-threatening. However, it can cause pain and discomfort.

Tooth gap can also create pockets between your teeth and gums where food can get stuck. It can make your gums tender and sore and even lead to gum disease. This condition affects both adults and children. Children may have temporary gaps as their baby teeth fall out. Most of these spaces close as the permanent teeth reach their final positions.

What causes tooth gap?

Tooth gap between the two upper front teeth

Tooth gap can also create pockets between your teeth and gums where food can get stuck. It can make your gums tender and sore and even lead to gum disease. This condition affects both adults and children. Children may have temporary gaps as their baby teeth fall out. Most of these spaces close as the permanent teeth reach their final positions.

Some gaps are small and barely noticeable, whiles other gaps are larger and a cosmetic issue for some people. If you don’t like the way the gap looks, there are ways to close it or reduce its size.

What causes tooth gap?

There are plenty of different causes of tooth gaps. Some of these reasons are preventable, while others are merely genetic. Here are some potential causes:

Oversized labial frenum

The labial frenum is the piece of tissue that normally extends from the inside of your upper lip to the gum just above your two upper front teeth. In some situations, the labial frenum continues to grow and passes between the two front teeth. If this happens, it blocks the natural closing of the space between these teeth.

A mismatched jaw bone

In some people, this condition is related to the size of their teeth and the size of their jaw bone. A mismatch between the size of the jaw bones and the size of the teeth can cause either extra space between teeth.

Undersized teeth

If the teeth are too small for the jaw bone, spaces between the teeth will occur. If the teeth are too big for the jaw, teeth will be crowded.

Bad habits can cause tooth gap

Behaviours such as thumb sucking tends to pull the front teeth forward, creating gaps. Tooth gaps occur when people push their tongue against their front teeth when swallowing. It can also be as a result of “mouth jewelry.” This pushes teeth forward and makes small gaps bigger.

Missing teeth

Sometimes some children are born missing one or two teeth in their jawbones. This leaves a space. This happens most often with the upper lateral incisors (the teeth next to the two upper front teeth). That can cause the upper central incisors to develop a space.

Periodontal disease

Gum disease results in the loss of the bone that supports the teeth. In people who have lost a lot of bone, the teeth can become loose. This movement can result in gaps between the front teeth.

Incorrect swallowing reflexes

For most people, the tongue presses against the roof of the mouth (palate) during swallowing. Rather than the tongue positioning itself at the roof of the mouth while swallowing, the tongue may push against the front teeth. Dentists refer to this as a tongue thrust. This may seem like a harmless reflex, but too much pressure on the front teeth can cause a separation.

How can you prevent tooth gap?

You cannot prevent all spaces. For instance, if tooth gap occur due to missing tooth or a mismatch between the teeth and the jaw size, the spaces cannot be prevented without treatment.

Maintaining your gum health is essential to good oral health. Regular flossing and brushing will help to prevent periodontal disease and its related bone loss.

People with a tongue thrust habit can re-learn to swallow by pushing their tongue up against their palate. Because, breaking this habit can prevent widening of the spaces between teeth.

What treatment options are available for tooth gap?

The treatment plan for gap teeth is based on the cause of the spaces. For some people, tooth gap is nothing more than a cosmetic issue. 

If the cause of the space is due to missing teeth, because of tooth extraction or are congenitally missing, dental implants or partial dentures (fixed or removable) can help close the gap.

Braces or Teeth bands

Braces to hold teeth

Braces have wires and brackets that put pressure on teeth. This slowly move them together, which closes a gap. Often, no matter where the diastema is, you must wear a full set of braces. This is on both your upper and lower teeth. That’s because moving any teeth affects your entire mouth.

While this has worked for some people, use extreme caution if you choose this method. You could end up making things worse or failing to address the underlying cause of the gap between your teeth. You can accidentally move teeth at the wrong angle, cause more gaps, and cause gum problems.

Talk to your doctor about cosmetic procedures to fill gaps between your teeth. Treatment options may include:

Dental Bonding

Dental bonding is the quickest and generally least expensive treatment option. It’s good for small tooth gaps. In this procedure, your dentists applies a resin to the damaged tooth. Resin is a light activated special type of plastic/resin.

A composite resin of tooth colour is applied to both teeth that are creating the space. The resin is then becomes hard using a special light to cure or adhere it to the teeth. Finally the cured resin is polished and smoothed to look natural and take care of any sharp or rigid edges. This procedure can take as little as 30-60 minutes and make a great change.

The resin is plastic which means that it is porous and can stain. It is also comes in contact with the hardest surface in the body, tooth enamel every day. Wear a bite guard if you are aware of clenching and grinding. Also avoid habits such as nail biting and chewing on hard objects. This are good tips to increasing the longevity of the resin.

Because of the staining tendency of resin try rinsing or brushing after drinking wine and coffee. Also, remember that ,smoking can cause discoloration.

Frenectomy to close tooth gap

This is ideal, if a large labial frenum is causing the gap. The frenum can be reduce through surgery thus frenectomy. Frenectomy in a younger child closes on its own. If it is done in an older child or an adult, the space may need to be closed with braces.

Dental Porcelain Veneers

One of the easiest way to explain porcelain veneers is to compare them to fake finger nails. In the case of fingernails the nail is prepared by gently filing down the top surface and then applying a thin shell of plastic. Porcelain veneers are of course a bit more complex but they are based on the same concept.

A dental impression is taken of your teeth. Then your teeth are filed down gently to obtain the most optimum shape for restoration. Usually a temporary veneer made of plastic is placed on the prepared surface. This is to allow time for an expert dental laboratory to fabricate a custom porcelain shell/veneer with just the right color, shading and translucency.

After “test-driving” your temporary veneers for a couple of weeks it is gently removed and your permanent, strong porcelain veneer adhered using a special bonding resin. As with the dental bonding, this resin is activated using a special light that turns it from a soft malleable substance to a solid, hard one.  Veneers are a long lasting, high quality diastema fix and can make your smile look great. 

If your doctor diagnoses you with gum disease, you must receive treatment to stop the infection before you seek treatment to close a gap. Treatment for gum disease varies. But may include scaling and root planing to remove hardened plaque (tartar) from above and below the gums. This eliminates the bacteria causing the disease.

Severe gum disease may require surgery to remove tartar that has accumulated deep within the gums. Surgery can also involve bone and tissue regeneration.

If you see a gap between your teeth or your child’s teeth, visit your dentist so he can assess the situation and be able to recommend the most suitable treatment.

About felclinic 593 Articles
Felix Ntifo is a Registered General Nurse who has so much passion to improve health care delivery. He founded FelClinic with the hope of making health information accessible to everyone who may not come in contact with him personally. "At we are very passionate about health and well-being of everyone. Our team is made up of professional doctors, nurses, midwives and lab technicians."

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