Gaps between teeth can be a concern in terms of form and function. Often the best way to close spaces between teeth is with braces. Other methods exist, but it depends on your desired outcome. Read on to find out how we can help you achieve your ideal smile.
What is Diastema? (Gap Teeth)
Diastema is a space between two teeth, often the upper front teeth (midline), but gaps can occur between any two teeth.
Gaps between teeth occur for a variety of reasons. Gaps are common in children with baby teeth, but often the space between teeth disappear as the larger adult teeth come through. Not everyone has a full set of adult teeth, so the missing tooth may be a cause of the gap.
Oversized gums or enlarged tissue at the top of the gum above the front teeth (called a labial frenum) can also cause a gap between teeth. Minor surgery can reduce the problem tissue. Some people have a gap between their teeth because their jaw bone is larger than their teeth. Actions such as thrust tongue or thumb sucking place pressure on the upper front teeth causing them to move apart.
Diastema is a type of malocclusion, the misalignment of teeth or bite. Other forms of malocclusion include overbite, underbite, crossbite, crowded teeth, crooked teeth and overlapping teeth.
Some adults notice gaps developing between their teeth as they mature. The concern may be a reflection of gum problems which reduces the support for the teeth, causing them to splay out. This may also be seen in teenagers with more severe forms of gum disease.
The Problem with Gaps Between Teeth
There are a few issues with gaps between teeth that may cause a person to consider closing the gaps with orthodontic treatment.
Gaps between teeth may be closed for reasons of form and function. The main problem with gaps is that gums are unprotected while chewing on food. Hard foods like potato chips and crusty bread can harm soft gums.
Plaque deposits can build up between teeth with gaps and lead to bad breath and tooth decay. Periodontal (gum) disease is more likely to occur in unprotected gums. Over time, periodontal disease can lead to loose teeth in the gums and in severe cases can cause teeth to fall out.
If spaces are developing as a result of gum disease, it will be essential for you to treat the gum disease before the orthodontist can close the spaces with a variety of appliance types such as braces or clear aligners. Your orthodontist can examine you and determine if the gaps are developing secondary to gum disease.
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In many people, a gap between teeth isn’t a problem and there is no medical reason for closing the gap. Some people don’t like the look of the gaps between their teeth. The gaps cause them to feel self-conscious when they talk or smile, and they prefer the look of teeth touching each other.
Orthodontic Treatment Options for Gaps
There are various orthodontic treatments for closing the gaps between teeth including traditional and lingual (inside) braces, Invisalign plus other dental options.
Braces with Elastic Chains
Braces work by pulling teeth into place with brackets, wire and elastic chain. Small elastic bands linked in a chain can move teeth together and close gaps. The coloured elastic chain fits over the brackets attached to teeth.
Elastic chains can close gaps in as little as six weeks to six months. Power chains are often the last step in braces as other problems such as teeth alignment are treated before closing the gaps.
The time patients require braces and elastic chains can vary based on several variants, including:
Care of Elastic Chains
To ensure your elastic chains are as effective as possible and treatment time is as short as possible, follow these care guidelines:
Brushing and flossing as directed by your Orthodontist
Don’t eat hard, sticky foods
Try to stop biting your nails or pen
Aesthetic Braces Options
If you’re worried about the look of metal braces, there’s the option of clear or lingual braces. Clear braces work the same as metal braces with the metal brackets replaced with translucent ceramic brackets that blend with teeth. Clear braces are more expensive than metal braces.
Lingual braces are worn on the back of your teeth so they can’t be seen. While the aesthetics of lingual braces are excellent, there are drawbacks to consider.
Each of the brackets for lingual braces must be custom-fit to the tooth, so they’re a more expensive option than metal and clear braces. You may need to wear lingual braces slightly longer than traditional braces; they don’t have the same power to pull teeth into place. Lingual braces can cause a lisp which reduces with practice speaking.
Invisalign is an option for some patients with gaps, but for others they’re not an option. Much of it depends on the size of the gap. Small gaps can be closed with the clear plastic aligners however if the gap is large, aligners may not pull the teeth together as much as required and the patient needs braces.
Some people may choose a combination of Invisalign aligners and bonding or veneers to close a large gap. Veneers and bonding are long-term options, but they aren’t lifelong like braces.
Closing gaps between teeth is one of the more simple orthodontic cases compared to other types of malocclusion.
If you would like to know your options, contact us online to make an appointment.