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Mind the Gap

Do you have a big gap between your front teeth? Does your salad linger there long after you have eaten it? There are many reasons a person can have a gap between their front teeth. The technical term for “the gap” is diastema.

Diastemas can occur in children and in adults. During the stage when a child has only baby teeth in their mouth, it is normal to have spaces between all the front teeth so that the larger permanent teeth have space to erupt into. Once a child starts losing the four upper and lower four front baby teeth, they enter a phase lovingly called the ugly duckling stage. In this phase, space can still exist between the child’s upper front teeth as the crowns of the teeth maybe tipped away from each other. If the diastema is about 1-2mm wide, typically it will reduce significantly or close completely when the permanent upper canines come in and push the front teeth together.

When all the permanent teeth are in, sometimes the space present between the teeth is because of a heavy frenum. A frenum is the tissue between your front teeth that connects your lip to your gum. Go ahead and pick your upper lip up and you will see it. If it is thick, it can prevent the teeth from coming together. An orthodontist can help close the space orthodontically and will need the help of a dentist, periodontist or oral surgeon to release the frenum with an incision to get the thick frenum out of the way.

Other times, as an adult, the space still exists because the upper teeth have a reverse architecture. This means that the tooth near the gumline is wider than the area of the crown of the tooth that you use to dig your food into. Typically, the edge of the tooth should be wider or similar in width as the area near the gumline. If you have reverse architecture, you will need the help of a dentist to close the space with bonding, veneers or crowding. Also, if you have small upper teeth that is causing the gap, a dentist can help close it cosmetically. It is not unusual to need a combination of orthodontic treatment to distribute the spaces evenly across the upper front teeth so that when they are built up, the teeth are even in width.

The above lists the most common reasons why you may have a space between your front teeth. A visit to your orthodontist can help sort if other reasons exist.

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