Dental Care

Teeth Gaps (Diastema)

Diastema is a fancy word for teeth gaps. This usually occurs between the front two incisors, but possibly occurring anywhere else in the mouth.

In animals, this is a normal feature, with the gap usually between the incisors and the molars, but in humans, the teeth are supposed to be spaced very closely together and diastema should not occur under normal circumstances.

There are several causes of diastema in humans, the most common of which being a difference between the size of the jawbone and the size of the person's teeth. The overgrowth of certain tissues in the mouth can force a gap between teeth, as can continuous pressure from inside of the mouth.

Periodontal disease can be a big factor in diastema also, as the bone loss in the jaw becomes apparent, teeth become loose and work away from each other. This almost entirely preventable condition is extremely common because there are so many different causes for diastema. 

Again, the most common cause of teeth gaps is the mismatch between the jawbone and the teeth. If the jawbone is too large for a person's small teeth, then there will be spaces between them where the tooth sockets should be filled to occlusion but aren't because of size. If the jawbone is too small it can lead to crowding.

The layout of your jaw isn't the only anatomical reason that someone might have a gap in their teeth. Humans have keratinized tissue in their mouths, and the less of it there is, the more likely a person is to have gaps in their teeth as the gums become prone to erosion.

A little piece of tissue called the labial frenum connects the upper lip to the gums, and if it is too short, it can pull the teeth apart with constant pressure on the gums. If it is too large, it can grow between front teeth and spread them apart. 

Baby teeth can have diastema as well, and they are called primate gaps. Temporary diastema is common in children because at some point, they must lose their baby teeth so that new ones can grow in. These toothless spaces in a child's mouth still count as teeth gaps.

Pressure from the inside of the mouth will eventually cause diastema also. Bad habits, like thumb sucking can push the teeth forward, which is why doctors recommend that children of a certain age stop using a pacifier before it affects their incoming permanent teeth.

Pacifier use after the eruption of the first set of teeth can also cause gaps between the teeth because of the constant pressure that the pacifier puts on them.

Incorrect swallowing reflexes can also out maneuver someone's teeth. Most people swallow using their tongue against their hard palate to push the contents of the mouth to the back of the throat, but some people thrust their tongue forward towards their teeth.

People who continually do things like eat ice or chew non-food items can cause teeth gaps by forcing objects between their teeth and over a period of time, this not only forces the teeth apart, but can also wear the enamel down permanently. 

Periodontal disease can cause teeth gaps, and often in the worst way. Periodontal bone loss in the jaw causes teeth to become loose and unhealthy, forcing gaps in between them. This usually happens not only to the front teeth, but to the back teeth, and the sides as well.

As the disease progresses, so does the diastema, usually starting between the top front incisors and moving towards the bottom incisors and creating gaps all the way around the mouth. Eventually, it leads to complete tooth loss, and then diastema is not only noticeable but also impossible to fix.

Periodontal disease often destroys the aesthetic quality of the mouth this way, teeth gaps being the least of their worries as far as looks are concerned. 

Gap teeth or diastema can be completely preventable in the majority of dental cases. Changing habits can be a boon to someone who wants to prevent diastema, but in the event of periodontal disease, the damage may be irreversible.

In temporary cases, teeth may grow back. The application of braces or other orthodontic prosthesis can fix any gaps that may occur due to natural causes or jaw deformities and with periodic tightening the braces will eventually pull the teeth back together.

In some situations like with bone loss, fixing the problem with or without braces may not be appropriate or even possible.

Let a qualified dentist advice you on this and above all maintain a good dental cleaning practice. Learn more on teeth gap treatment.


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