Diastema: What Is It?

Posted on: March 15, 2019

Young woman holding magnifying glass over mouth to show gap between teeth

A gap between the teeth, called “diastema,” are common among many dental patients and can be found between any teeth in the mouth, but usually between the two upper front teeth. Why do these spaces develop, and what are the differences between a diastema in children versus adults? Diastemata develop through a variety of reasons, such as misaligned jaw bones, missing teeth, and thumb-sucking. Not all spaces can be prevented, but many can be adjusted through orthodontic treatment. If you have a diastema that you would like to have treated, learn what your treatment options are through this guide!

 

Changes in Orthodontic Care

Orthodontic treatment options have been revolutionized through modern technology and dental science. Poorly aligned teeth have been a nuisance for dental patients for hundreds of years, and orthodontic work was even performed on willing subjects dating back to the ancient Egyptians and the Romans. From crude metal bands to catgut, archaeologists have discovered that even ancient societies performed orthodontic care on patients in an effort to straighten teeth. For those suffering from malocclusion, or misalignment, a common practice for moving emerging teeth into their correct position was by regularly pushing them with the fingers, a practice that has long been outdated since the invention of custom-fit metal appliances in the 18th century. Eventually, orthodontics treatment evolved into the process that we see today: brackets being cemented to each individual tooth with a metal wire attached to cinch the teeth together. Options for invisible treatments, such as lingual braces or even Invisalign, further allow patients to choose how they straighten their teeth. While there are so many options to choose from to decide how to straighten our teeth, how our teeth first develop and erupt in our mouth is a separate process. Since every patient is different and will experience a variety of dental issues, some patients may face something called “diastema,” which can have certain dental complications and be caused by a variety of reasons. Understanding how diastemata form and what you can do to fix them can give you the freedom to be in control of your oral health and appearance.

 

Gaps Between Teeth

Many people across the world are born with a diastema, or a gap between their teeth. These spaces can form anywhere in the mouth, but are most commonly found between the two upper front teeth. Both children and adults can have a diastema, and many times a child’s diastema will disappear once their permanent teeth grow in. While some gaps are relatively small and barely noticeable, others can be quite large and can cause cosmetic issues for some patients. While relatively harmless, most patients who fix their diastema do it for aesthetic reasons.

 

There are a variety of reasons why a diastema develops. A mismatch between the size of the jawbone and the size of teeth that develops can cause gaps to appear, or even too small of teeth (or a missing tooth) can create spaces, as well. Sometimes a diastema can be caused by an oversized labial frenum. This part of the mouth is a piece of tissue that extends from the inside of your upper lip to the gum just above your upper front teeth. Occasionally, this will grow too much and pass between the two front teeth, causing a gap. Bad habits, such as thumb sucking, can also lead to gaps between the teeth as the movement of the thumb tends to push teeth forward, creating a gap. A diastema can also develop due to incorrect swallowing reflexes. Normally, the tongue will push against the roof of the mouth when swallowing, but some people’s tongues may push against the teeth, which causes separation. This is called a tongue thrust. Lastly, gaps can form from periodontal disease in which inflammation damages the gums and teeth, which can cause teeth to loosen and fall out, or decay.

 

Treatment Options

A diastema can result from a mixture of orthodontic problems, or it can develop on its own. Many people who fix the gap in their teeth do it for appearance, but for those patients who have missing teeth, they might need to have a dental implant or bridge inserted. More often than not, braces are needed to close the gap between teeth, no matter where the gap is located. Fixing a diastema affects the entire mouth structure, so braces will be installed on both the top and lower teeth for proper alignment. If your diastema is due to an oversized labial frenum, a frenectomy will be performed to help the gap close on its own. If there is any sign of gum disease, periodontal treatment will be needed first to restore gum health before any braces will be put on.

 

Keeping The Gap ClosedHand holding a clear retainer

Spaces will tend to stay closed when done through orthodontic or dental repair. To prevent any gaps from developing in the future, make sure to wear your retainer that you will receive after treatment and use it according to your orthodontist’s instructions. For extra protection, your orthodontist might also splint (attach) the backs of the teeth to other teeth with composite and a wire to prevent them from moving. If you notice a space between your teeth or in your child’s mouth, contact your dentist for an evaluation to determine what kind of orthodontic treatment you might need. For more information on how to fix a diastema and improve your oral health, call Belmar Orthodontics at (303) 225-9016 to start improving your smile today!