Also known as a diastema, a gap or space between two teeth is a fairly common dental problem. It generally becomes obvious soon after permanent teeth come in and are more likely to affect the upper front teeth in your mouth. Gapped teeth affect appearance, confidence, and self-esteem, but they can also cause potential oral health problems later.
What Causes Gaps Between Teeth?
Tooth formation and position are affected by fraenula, a type of connective tissue. Strings of these tissues connect different areas of our mouth such as the tongue, cheeks and inner lip. Fraenula also guide the growth of our oral structure and help position teeth.
Two kinds of fraenula can cause gapped teeth:
- Maxillary Labial Fraenum – The inner part of the top lip is attached to the front upper gum with this fraenum, which you can feel between your upper teeth and inner lip. If this fraenum is positioned too low down the gum, it can cause a gap between the front teeth in your upper jaw.
- Lingual Fraenum – The tongue is attached to the bottom of the mouth with this fraenum. A restrictive lingual fraenum can prevent the tongue from sticking out past the lips, causing a condition known as tongue-tie. In severe cases, this can cause a gap between the front teeth in your lower jaw.
Other possible causes of teeth gapping include:
- Development of Teeth – When they first start erupting from the jaw, teeth have spaces between them that are closed after canine teeth erupt.
- Missing Teeth in Jaws – If children are born with one or two missing teeth in their jaw, there may be a space between baby teeth or permanent teeth later.
- Extra Teeth/Crowding – If children are born with extra teeth in their jawbones, these may prevent other teeth from erupting or need to be removed, leaving a gap.
- Jaw/Tooth Size – If a child has a large jaw as compared to the size of their teeth, there may be gaps. Small teeth may also leave spaces between them.
Are Tooth Gaps Permanent? Do They Cause any Complications?
Gaps between teeth may close by themselves in certain cases. For instance, if a baby has a low maxillary labial fraenum, their baby teeth could have gaps at first. The fraenum may shorten by the age of one, while more teeth coming in close the gaps. With permanent teeth, erupting back molars can push the rest of the teeth together.
However, if the gaps don’t close on their own, they can cause complications such as:
- Cosmetic Concerns – Gapped teeth can lead to embarrassment and self-consciousness, causing you to try and hide your teeth while speaking or smiling.
- Bite/Alignment Issues – Large gaps between front teeth can reduce the space available for other teeth, causing overbites/underbites and jaw alignment problems.
- Dental Health/Oral Hygiene Problems – Spaces between teeth can leave your gums exposed to injury, as well as raise the risk of gum disease by trapping food in them.
What are the Orthodontic Treatment Options for Gapped Teeth?
Orthodontics offers various solutions for teeth gapping, including:
- Braces for Teeth
- Removable Appliances
Braces are one of the most common treatment options to close the gap in teeth. The orthodontist will glue the track of your braces to your teeth. The steel wires attached to braces are used to correct the positioning of the teeth. You might need to go multiple times for regular check-ups and to tighten braces during your treatment duration.
Braces treat gapped teeth in a maximum of 36 months. They put gradual but constant pressure on your teeth during this duration to align your teeth.
Invisalign is a popular choice for closing the gap in teeth because they are virtually invisible. It is a set of clear plastic custom-made aligners. These aligners are changed every few weeks according to the recommendation of your orthodontist. It perfectly works for the minor gap between teeth. Sometimes a combination of veneers and aligners works for closing significant gaps in teeth.
The duration of Invisalign treatment entirely depends on the condition of your gapped teeth. But generally, it takes 10-18 months.
Cosmetic veneers are considered a suitable treatment to treat an enormous gap between the teeth. It’s a thin shell of porcelain attached to the front of your teeth. They are customized according to your teeth’ shape, size, and color to make them look more natural. It requires a bit surface of your teeth to shave off to get fit in. This is the only drawback to the otherwise perfect dental treatment to close the gap in teeth.
It is also famous for being a treatment with minimum visits required. One more advantage of wearing veneers is they are stain-resistant. So you can drink your coffee and wine without staining your white and bright veneers.
Removable appliances like orthodontic plates and aligners bring the gapped teeth closer. They take less time to close the gap in teeth than braces, i.e., less than 6 weeks. And they are cheaper as well. Removable appliances appear the same as orthodontic retainers. These appliances are wired around your teeth. They usually have spring at their back. It pushes your front teeth closer from all angles.
Like aligners, you need to wear removable orthodontic appliances for at least 20-22 hours a day. Your dentist will make scheduled adjustments to them.
Orthodontic braces for gaps in teeth are generally the best treatment option for closing the gaps between teeth, especially at a young age. If you’d like to learn about various types of braces and how they can give you even, straight teeth, call Thurman Orthodontics for an appointment today!
Dr. Brian Thurman has spent his entire life enjoying all the beauty that California has to offer. A Fresno native, he still escapes to the ocean or the mountains whenever his busy schedule allows. Driven by his love for natural beauty, Dr. Thurman enjoys creating beautiful smiles and healthy bites that last a lifetime. He is proud to be the only Ivy League trained Orthodontist in the Fresno/Clovis area.