Dental Care

Teeth Gap Treatment

Teeth gap treatment can be the solution for a fair number of people who have what dentists refer to as a diastema - a noticeable space between two of more teeth. 

Although a diastema can be part of an issue which requires orthodontic or periodontic treatment, in other cases the gap is the only "problem" (if it's perceived as such) and treatment would be purely for the sake of appearance. 

In those cases teeth gap treatment is optional and the decision regarding whether to obtain it is up to the individual.

You're in good company if you have a diastema.  A number of highly successful entertainers and other celebrities have decided to retain the gap in their teeth. 

The list includes such notables as David Letterman, Robert Morse, the late Terry-Thomas, Elton John, Madonna, Lauren Hutton and Condoleezza Rice. 

If you're interested in learning more about diastemas and teeth gap treatment, the following information will provide a good start.

What is a Diastema and What Causes It?

Although a diastema most often appears as an open space between the two upper front teeth (the central incisors), gaps can exist between any two teeth. 

The gap is often caused by a mismatch in size of the teeth and the size of the jaw; i.e., the teeth are too small. 

Gaps in the teeth can also be the result of missing upper lateral incisors (the teeth next to the two upper front teeth) or an oversized labial frenum (sometimes also called the frenulum, this is the soft tissue connecting the lip to the gum just between the two upper front teeth). 

Occasionally, a child's frenum blocks the natural closing of the gap during maturation by growing large enough to pass between the two front teeth.

Bad childhood habits can also result in a space between the teeth.  Over time, sucking the thumb tends to pull the front teeth forward toward the lips, potentially creating a gap between the teeth. 

Tongue thrusting, or pressing the tongue against the front teeth instead of the roof of the mouth while swallowing, pushes the front teeth forward and can therefore have the same effect as thumb sucking.  Finally, teeth loosened by gum disease can spread and create a gap.

Teeth Gap Treatment

A diastema is treatable, but the appropriate method depends on the gap's cause and severity. 

In most cases, teeth gap treatment is accomplished by moving the teeth together with orthodontic braces (either traditional braces or in some cases, Invisalign) or by widening the teeth with direct dental bonding, crowns or porcelain veneers. 

The two main exceptions are diastemas caused by oversized labial frenums and gaps caused by periodontal disease.

Patients who wear braces to close their gap can expect their treatment to take between one and two years.  The entire mouth will be affected no matter which teeth are moved, so braces on both the upper and lower teeth are typically required.

Understandably, many patients don't want to deal with braces or the lengthy treatment period they require.  Fortunately, in some cases options are available. 

If your diastema is caused by having incisors too small for your jaw, your dentist might suggest using crowns, porcelain veneers or bonding to widen your teeth and close the gap that way.  A more extensive repair such as dental implants, a bridge or a partial denture might be necessary if your gap is caused by missing teeth.

A gap caused by an oversized labial frenum should be treated surgically.  The procedure, known as a frenectomy, reduces the frenum's size.  Following the surgery, the gap may need to be closed with braces, although if the patient is a younger child, the gap might close on its own.

When the gap is the result of loose teeth caused by periodontal disease, treatment for that condition will be required before anything can be done to close the gap. 

Further Treatment and After Care

Once the gums are restored to a healthy state, braces can often be used to shift the teeth back into position and close the gap. 

Closing the gap might require a bridge in some cases, but a splint can be used to prevent any possible re-shifting and reappearance of the gap.

There is one final thing you should know about teeth gap treatment performed with orthodontic braces.  Even after a successful treatment, over time the teeth may shift and the gap may reappear. 

Fortunately, this can be prevented by bonding a permanent retainer to the inside surfaces of the teeth.


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