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Do you know someone who has gaps in their teeth? Or maybe you yourself have a gap between your teeth that affects your smile. Though gaps in teeth are fairly common, we know they can sometimes take the confidence out of your grin. And since our smile is one of the first and last things people notice about us, a noticeable gap in your teeth can make you feel like you’ve left a less-than-stellar impression.

So what can you do about gap teeth? And what causes gaps in teeth, you might ask. In this post, we’ll answer those questions and share everything you need to know about gap teeth.

We’ll cover:

  • What are gap teeth?
  • What is diastema?
  • What causes spacing or gaps in teeth?
  • Are there complications that can result if gaps are left untreated?
  • How do you close a gap in teeth?
  • How do braces, Invisalign or Clarity Aligners fix gaps?

What Are Gap Teeth?

You might be relieved to know that having gap teeth, as we mentioned above, is one of the most common orthodontic concerns. It shows up in about 25% of people. But what is considered gap teeth? Your orthodontist or dentist will identify a space as gap teeth when the space is wider than 0.5 millimetres, or .02 inches. 

For some people, a small gap in between their teeth isn’t an esthetic worry. Sometimes it’s even celebrated as a signature look — we can think of a few celebrities who are known for the gap between their upper front teeth. For others, a gap in teeth can make for a self-conscious smile. 

What Is Diastema?

A gap in teeth is also called “diastema.” While gaps in between your teeth can appear anywhere in your mouth, they are typically more noticeable or of concern between the upper front teeth. Diastema can affect both adults and children, though children typically outgrow diastema once their permanent teeth come in. 

We should mention that when kids have gaps in their baby teeth, this isn’t considered diastema and shouldn’t cause any worry. Gaps between teeth at this stage are actually a good sign because spaced-out baby teeth indicate there will be room for the larger adult teeth when they erupt. However, there are cases when gaps between teeth remain, even after all adult teeth have come in. For kids, this would then be considered diastema.

Diastema is considered a type of malocclusion—or misalignment of your teeth. Other types of malocclusion you might have heard of include crowding, overbites, underbites, and crossbites. As with any misalignment, diastema can cause or contribute to orthodontic problems and affect your dental health and functioning.

What Causes Spacing or Gaps In Teeth?

If you have gaps between your teeth, it’s only natural for you to wonder what actually causes them. Most of the time, several factors contribute to diastema. The most common causes of gaps in teeth include:

Undersized teeth: When your teeth are too small for your jaw bone, this disproportion can lead to the formation of gaps.

Genetics: The size of your teeth and jaw is largely informed by genetics. You might notice that family members also have gap teeth.

Oversized labial frenum: What is a labial frenum? Simply put, it’s the piece of tissue that runs along your gum line and your two upper front teeth. An overgrowth of your labial frenum causes a separation between your upper front teeth, creating a gap.

Adult teeth that didn’t erupt: It’s possible that once a baby tooth has fallen out, its adult replacement just doesn’t come in and the result is a gap in your smile. Sometimes this is hereditary and sometimes external factors during development are to blame.

Losing teeth in early childhood: Trauma to baby teeth can cause premature empty spaces between teeth. Or if an adult tooth gets knocked out or requires removal, this leaves gaps in your smile from an early age.

Oral habits from your early years: Infant habits like thumb sucking, pacifier use, or tongue thrust are natural and aren’t typically cause for concern when a child is a baby. But if these habits continue too long into the toddler years and early schooling, they can lead to diastema. The extended and consistent pressure on the front two teeth pushes the top front teeth apart, resulting in a gap between them. 

Teeth Grinding or Jaw Clenching: Persistent teeth grinding and jaw clenching, otherwise called “bruxism” can put undue pressure on the upper teeth and makes them flare out, leaving a gap between them.

Gum disease: Inflammation from gum disease can lead to tooth and bone loss, resulting in gaps between the teeth. And it’s possible for severe tooth decay or cavities to render a tooth so damaged that removing it is the best way to stop gum inflammation or tooth pain.  

Are There Complications That Can Result If Gaps Are Left Untreated?

Yes, it’s possible for a gap between teeth, however small, to result in complications if left untreated. Gap teeth can have an effect on your dental health. Dr. VanderWall believes that excellent oral health goes hand-in-hand with great orthodontic care. So if you have gap teeth, make sure you visit your dentist twice a year so they can check to see if your gaps are affecting your oral health.

If you have gaps in your teeth and aren’t sure if they need treatment, we recommend you come in for a free consultation at VanderWall Orthodontics. We’re happy to examine your teeth and determine if your gap teeth are only an aesthetic trait or potentially problematic.

Here are the main complications you might encounter if you leave your gap teeth untreated:

Oral Health Issues: Earlier, we mentioned that gaps can encourage dental health issues, providing more areas for plaque, bacteria and food debris to hide. In turn, this can make you more susceptible to gum disease, tooth decay, and cavities if you don’t have a diligent and thorough oral hygiene routine. If these tooth issues aren’t addressed, they can lead to tooth loss, potentially creating even more gaps in teeth.

Misalignment Issues: We should mention again that gap teeth are a type of misalignment, so you might experience complications common to misaligned teeth such as uneven wear, jaw pain, or in more severe circumstances, deterioration of your jaw bone. 

Oral Functioning Issues: Sometimes gaps between teeth can make it harder to chew efficiently. Other times, you might have speech difficulties like lisping or difficulty pronouncing certain sounds. Gaps in teeth can also contribute to the inability to close your mouth properly if your front teeth flare out. When your teeth don’t function properly, even your overall nutrition can become compromised.

How Do You Close A Gap In Teeth?

That’s the million-dollar question! Patients who have come to our Raleigh, Carey, or Durham office with gap teeth have asked us, “Can braces fix gaps? Or how about Invisalign for gaps in my teeth?”

We’re happy to say that orthodontic treatment is one of the best ways to fix a gap in teeth. With braces — or clear aligner treatment like Invisalign® or 3M™ Clarity™ Aligners — Dr. VanderWall knows how to close a gap in your teeth so it will look like you never had diastema to begin with! To put it mildly, a braces or Invisalign before and after is dramatic and very exciting.

How Do Braces, Invisalign or Clarity Aligners Fix Gaps?

Braces for Gap Teeth

At VanderWall Orthodontics, we offer modern metal braces, clear ceramic braces, and InBrace® lingual braces for gap teeth. We have several options because we want our patients to feel confident about the look of their braces from day one. So if the thought of seeing a mouthful of metal every time you look in the mirror is less than appealing, clear ceramic braces and InBrace lingual braces might be your choice since they’re more discreet. But regardless of looks, any of these braces can be used to effectively close gap teeth. Wires and brackets apply steady pressure to your teeth and guide them into their correct positions. 

In a consultation with Dr. VanderWall, he will chat with you about which treatment will work most efficiently, be comfortable, and provide you with the best results for your specific gap teeth.

How to Close a Gap Without Braces: Invisalign for Gaps

It might surprise you that you can also use Invisalign for gaps. But are they as effective as braces? Simply put, yes, Invisalign for gaps is as effective and efficient as braces, with the added bonus of being nearly invisible. These clear, plastic aligners gently and gradually move your teeth into place, closing up gaps and transforming misalignment into straight teeth.

And how long does Invisalign take to close a gap? Well, it depends on your case. For some patients, Invisalign can fix gaps in as little as six months, while for others, treatment typically lasts over a year. 

Clarity Aligners for Gaps

In addition to Invisalign, your Raleigh orthodontist offers a second clear aligner system: 3M Clarity Aligners. This treatment closes gaps and produces straight teeth much like Invisalign does. Dr. VanderWall will further explain the benefits of Clarity Aligners in your consultation. Like Invisalign, Clarity Aligners are a custom clear aligner system that efficiently fixes gaps in teeth and other misalignment issues with little change to your everyday life or eating habits.

Getting Gap-Free with VanderWall Orthodontics

The team at VanderWall Orthodontics is ready to help you achieve a gap-free, confident smile. As a leading provider of metal and ceramic braces, InBrace lingual braces, Invisalign, and Clarity Aligners, our team will design well-spaced, straight teeth for the smile you’ve always wanted.

Contact us today to make an appointment at our Raleigh, Cary, or Durham, NC office and start your smile transformation with an expert orthodontic team led by a Board-certified orthodontist. 

Dr. Clay VanderWall

Author Dr. Clay VanderWall

Dr. VanderWall attended Kalamazoo College, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Health Sciences. He spent a semester doing research at the Dental Research Center of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill where he wrote his Senior Individualized Project (SIP). He furthered his studies at the University of Detroit-Mercy School of Dentistry, receiving his Doctor of Dental Surgery in 1999. He graduated with honors and was inducted into the national dental honor society, Omicron Kappa Upsilon (OKU). He also received the Pierre Fauchard Academy Student Award and was a recipient of the Health Professions Scholarship from the United States Navy.

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