If you’ve ever seen someone with gap teeth at the front of their smile, there’s actually a name for that. It’s called a “diastema.” And while some people are completely proud to rock their diastemas—like Madonna or Michael Strahan—not everybody is in love with having a gap between their two upper front teeth.
Is there anything wrong with having a gapped smile? What causes diastemas? How do you fix them or cover them up?
While there are different types of gaps you can get in your bite, some are worth worrying about while others are not.
There are a handful of reasons why someone could have a gap between the teeth or a diastema.
Diastemas typically occur between the top two front teeth (the ones we call “centrals”). They’re usually caused by an overly tight strip of tissue (labial frenum) that runs through the middle of the mouth, between those two teeth. If the tissue is quite prominent or tight, it pushes the two front teeth apart from one another.
Sometimes diastemas run in families. If one parent has gap teeth, it’s more likely that one of their kids will too.
Other types of gaps between teeth can be caused by tooth decay, gum disease, tooth loss, or impacted teeth. So, if you have an open space that seems wider than normal, you should go ahead and talk to your dentist about it. They may need to take an X-ray of that area to see if anything is going on below your gumlines that they can’t see.
Small gaps between your teeth are a normal part of childhood. As children lose their baby teeth and permanent teeth erupt, those spaces tend to close. But if you’re an adult with a gap between two teeth, there’s usually something specific that’s causing it.
Gaps between adult teeth do not go away on their own. They tend to stay exactly where they’re at. But anytime space is created somewhere in the bite—be it from gum disease or tooth loss—it makes extra room for other teeth to begin drifting out of alignment, which can widen spaces between teeth.
The only way to get a gap to go away is to work with your dentist to develop an individual treatment plan.
Sometimes gaps are an important—and good—thing to have. In young children, gaps between teeth mean there’s more than enough space for their larger permanent adult teeth to erupt properly. Not having gaps between their primary (baby) teeth is an early indication that crowded or impacted teeth are imminent.
But as adults, closing the gap between the teeth becomes more of a personal decision. Especially if they are only causing aesthetic issues. Functional gaps caused by gum disease and tooth loss, however, always need to be treated promptly. Otherwise, the newly-created spacing can alter the alignment of your overall smile.
People who have healthy teeth and gums and are not bothered by the appearance of a diastema do not need to close the gap. But if you feel like gap front teeth are significantly inhibiting your personality, social life, or the impression you make on other people, then the investment in correcting it is priceless!
Today, it’s common to see celebrities with gap teeth. Having a space between your two front teeth can add flair to your personality and give you a unique, confident smile that is one-of-a-kind. Madonna and Michael Strahan aren’t the only ones who have chosen to leave their diastema right where it’s at. Other pop culture icons with gap teeth include people like Elton John, Anna Paquin, Lauren Hutton, Niecy Nash, Jessica Szohr, Elijah Wood, Seal, Penn Badgley, Chris Martin, Shonda Rhimes, Uzo Aduba, Jorja Fox, Lily Aldridge, and Ed Westwick. And that’s not even half of them. Dakota Johnson had one for years, but it wound up closing up because of a change she made in her orthodontic retainer.
Believe it or not, some people even have artificially created diastemas, because they’re seen as attractive in their culture. In certain African and Middle Eastern areas, gap teeth are considered a symbol of beauty.
But gaps between teeth further back in the mouth are not nearly as normal. They are usually because there is an infection between teeth, triggering tissue loss. Such spaces tend to trap food every time we eat. A gap can also be caused by impacted or missing teeth.
When diastemas run in the family, early intervention can prevent the development of large gaps in teeth. Specifically, if your child receives early orthodontic assessments or takes advantage of “Phase 1” braces to adjust the way their teeth grow in.
Gaps created by tooth loss or gum disease can be prevented with professional dental cleanings and daily flossing. Most of us tend to focus on the parts of our teeth that we can see, neglecting the spaces between. But having our teeth professionally cleaned every six months and flossing around each tooth, every day, will help keep our teeth and gums tightly in place.
Treating gap teeth should be done carefully, as the size of your diastema significantly influences your options.
For example, small gaps in the upper front teeth can be masked with dental bonding, crowns, or veneers. But if the gap between teeth is significant, you don’t want to place larger-than-life restorations on those two front teeth. The result would look extremely bulky and unnatural.
Another treatment for diastemas is to snip or laser the tissue between those two front teeth, then bring them together and close the gap with orthodontic appliances. You would probably have a choice between traditional braces or aligners. After your treatment, your orthodontist will likely need to bond a permanent retainer behind those teeth to prevent them from relapsing.
You also have the option of not treating your gapped teeth at all. If they don’t bother you or cause you to feel self-conscious about your appearance, there’s physically no reason why you need to get rid of the gap.
If you’re interested in getting rid of gapped teeth, the first step is talking to your dentist. They’ll measure the diastema, assess what’s contributing to it, and then help you rank your treatment options. You might even have more than one or two choices to consider. While you’re there, consider asking your dentist to show you before-and-after shots of any similar cases that they’ve treated. They might even offer a digital smile design where you can preview veneers or braces on a virtual replica of your teeth. That way you have a good idea of what you can expect if you decide to address the gap.
Having a gap in your two front teeth (diastema) is completely normal for a lot of people. Some cultures even consider them attractive. Normally a diastema is caused by tight skin between your two front teeth. Other times, gaps can be created because of gum disease, extra teeth, or tooth loss. People have pretty mixed feelings about gap teeth, so it’s important to talk about your goals and concerns with your dentist. You might be perfectly happy with a small gap with no desire to treat it, or you could be so embarrassed that you don’t even want to smile in photos. In dentistry, there’s nothing wrong with having a diastema. But your dental provider will help you fix your gap if that’s truly a concern you have.
Make your inbox smile!