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:
- Veneers – These tooth coverings are permanently attached to the surface of teeth and can be used to cover a gap if they’re slightly wider than natural teeth.
- Frenectomy – This is a type of oral surgery where the fraenum causing a gap is removed, usually followed by orthodontic treatment to correct the gap.
- Removable Appliances – Orthodontic plates and aligners can help teeth move closer together, correcting minor gaps over time.
- Braces for Teeth – Braces can help fix gaps in teeth. These fixed dental appliances apply constant pressure to move teeth into their correct position, fixing gaps between teeth as well as other alignment issues.
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.