Tooth gaps are common, especially during childhood while teeth are still growing. For many kids, those gaps close up as their primary teeth come in. But sometimes, gaps persist or have other causes.
If you have a gap between two teeth, you might wonder if it’s OK to leave it or if you need to have it treated. After all, plenty of celebrities flaunt their gaps — is it OK to flaunt yours?
As a leading family and cosmetic dental practice in Waterford, Michigan, Dr. Taylor’s Family Dental Center helps patients decide if it’s OK to keep a gap or if they need to take steps to treat it. In this post, Marvin Taylor, DDS, helps you understand why gaps happen and when a gap can benefit from dental treatment.
Understanding why gaps happen
Also called diastema, tooth gaps can form anywhere, but they occur most often between the two front teeth. As noted, temporary gaps often form during childhood, closing up once the permanent “adult” teeth emerge.
Permanent gaps have other causes. Some gaps occur because your teeth are smaller than average, which means they naturally leave more space in between. Missing teeth can also cause gaps, especially when one or more adult teeth never emerge during childhood. Extra teeth or baby teeth that fall out late can cause gaps, too.
Swallowing problems and tooth sucking can also cause tooth gaps. Each of these activities puts extra pressure on the front teeth, shifting them out of alignment. Other gaps occur when the band of tissue that connects your upper lip to your gum (called the frenulum) is unusually large or thick, interfering with the way teeth emerge.
Finally, sometimes a gap develops because of gum disease. Inflammation and infection can damage the tissues supporting your teeth, shifting them out of position and creating gaps.
When gaps need treatment
Gaps that aren’t caused by injury or disease typically don’t require treatment for medical reasons. Still, many people opt to have the gaps closed for cosmetic reasons. In these instances, veneers can be a great option for covering the gap and restoring your smile.
Some gaps do require dental treatment to prevent other problems or treat underlying causes. These include gaps that:
- Are caused by dental trauma
- Are caused by decay or gum disease
- Are caused by one or more missing teeth
- Cause problems with eating or speaking
- Cause crowding or alignment problems
For these gaps, crowns, bridges, implants, and orthodontic treatment are possible treatment options, depending on the underlying cause of your diastema.
If you want to maintain a gap that’s not associated with oral health problems, you need to provide the space and the teeth on either side with a little extra attention. That’s because the wider space makes it easier for plaque and tartar to form, both of which increase your risk of gum disease and cavities.
Each time you brush your teeth, spend some extra time cleaning between the teeth to ensure plaque, tartar, and the bacteria they harbor are thoroughly removed. In addition to brushes and floss, rinses and water flossers can help clean the area and make your oral hygiene routine more effective.
Understanding your options
Bottom line: While most diastemas don’t cause significant oral health problems, some gaps can increase your risk of tooth loss or gum disease. Like any oral health issue, having a gap evaluated is the best first step in ensuring your teeth and gums stay healthy, so you can continue to enjoy a lifetime of beautiful smiles.
To learn more about tooth gaps and find out if your gap needs correction, call 248-681-8100 or book an appointment online at Dr. Taylor’s Family Dental Center today.