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Gapped teeth may not appear to be much of a problem as compared to crooked teeth, but if not treated accordingly, it can cause the gums to be sore or develop gum disease. In dentistry, gapped teeth is known as a condition called diastema. The gap typically appears between the two upper front teeth, but spaces can form anywhere in the mouth between two teeth. Gapped teeth are considered a type of malocclusion and are caused by multiple reasons.

Reasons that cause spaces in teeth

Genetics

More often than not, malocclusions are inherited, and that includes spaces between teeth. If gapped teeth run in your family, chances are you may have them too.

Bad oral habits from childhood

About 97% of children have gaps between their baby teeth and close naturally once their permanent teeth grow. However, excessive thumb sucking can place excessive pressure on the front teeth, pulling the front teeth forward and triggering the formation of a gap.

Extra, undersized or missing teeth

Some children are born with missing, undersized or extra adult teeth which leave a gap. In some cases, extra teeth can prevent the eruption of other teeth, causing a gap.

Overgrowth of labial frenum

Spaces between teeth can also be caused by an overgrowth of tissue at the area between your upper front teeth and gum line. This tissue is known as the labial frenum. An oversized labial frenum can create a gap between the front teeth.

Uneven jaw and teeth size

Spaces may form in between teeth when the teeth are too small for the jawbone. As a result, the teeth appear far away from each other. The size of your jawbone and teeth usually run in the family; so if you have gaps, you may notice the same for your parents and other family members too.

Swallowing problems

Some people develop a reflex problem known as tongue thrusting, where the tongue pushes against the front teeth instead of staying at the mouth roof when swallowing food. Over time, due to excessive pressure on the front teeth, separation can occur.

Gum disease

Gapped teeth can also be caused by gum disease. When the gums get swollen, they can damage the supporting tissues around the teeth, causing gaps and tooth loss.

What are my options for fixing spaces between teeth?

There are a few options patients can choose to treat gapped teeth. Some of the most effective treatment options include:

Dental bonding

Tooth bonding is ideal for tiny gaps or if a chipped tooth is the reason behind the gap. The dentist uses UV light to bond tooth-coloured resin to the tooth. This option is however the least strong or long lasting.

Dental veneers

Since dental veneers are highly customizable, they are suitable to treat minor teeth gaps by making them slightly larger than your natural teeth. To make it more natural, more veneers can be done to equalize the gaps and make the teeth more proportionate and natural. The dentist first matches the veneer to your natural teeth colour and removes a thin layer of enamel from your tooth to bond the veneer.

Dental implants

In cases where the gap is caused by a missing tooth, your dentist may suggest a dental implant to fill up the tooth gap.

Surgery

If the cause behind your gapped teeth is an enlarged labial frenum, a type of surgery called a frenectomy is necessary to remove it, followed by appropriate treatment such as Invisalign.

Invisalign

While braces are a suitable option to treat spaces between teeth, many patients opt for Invisalign due to obvious reasons like comfort and aesthetics (no need for noticeable metal wires to close the gap). The Invisalign system is equally equipped to treat spaces between teeth and may in fact be more effective as each treatment plan and set of aligners are uniquely customised. Patients are also required to remove their aligners during meals and while brushing and flossing, ensuring healthier gums and teeth. In cases where a big gap is present, Invisalign may be used in tandem with dental bonding or veneers to close the gap fully. If a gum infection is present, it must first be treated before going ahead with Invisalign treatment.

How long does Invisalign take to close spaces between teeth?

Invisalign moves teeth about 0.2mm per aligner, which is changed every 2 weeks. So if you have a gap of 1.5mm, it would take roughly 12 weeks or 3 months to close the gap. However, because other teeth gaps might be created during the process of bringing the original tooth gap together, it might take about 3-6 months for a smile with completely no spaces at all.

If you have spaces between teeth that you are concerned about, feel free to reach out to our team of qualified dentists and we will assess your condition and recommend a treatment plan.

References

  1. Sękowska, A., & Chałas, R. (2017). Diastema size and type of upper lip midline frenulum attachment. Folia morphologica, 76(3), 501–505. https://doi.org/10.5603/FM.a2016.0079
  2. Suter, V. G., Heinzmann, A. E., Grossen, J., Sculean, A., & Bornstein, M. M. (2014). Does the maxillary midline diastema close after frenectomy?. Quintessence international (Berlin, Germany : 1985), 45(1), 57–66. https://doi.org/10.3290/j.qi.a30772
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