Complete Guide to Spaced Teeth
Spaced teeth can strongly impact the appearance, function of the mouth, self-confidence, and quality of life of a patient. Various corrective options are available including braces, veneers, bonding, implants, and jaw surgery. It’s important to discuss the best treatment for you with an orthodontist.
A gap or space between two teeth is called a diastema. Diastemas typically occur between the two upper front teeth but can occur between any two teeth located beside each other inside the mouth. In most cases, spaces between teeth occur because the jawbones do not match up correctly with the size of the teeth. The jawbone may be too large or too small for the teeth to fit in optimally.
If the teeth are too large or the jawbone too small, then the teeth will be crowded together in the mouth. However, if the teeth are too small or the jawbone too large, then the teeth will likely develop diastemas.
Not all diastemas cause problems. Some people live their entire lives with spaces between their teeth without concern about aesthetics. Other people feel that their teeth spaces are too large and it affects their self-confidence.
Others have functional challenges because of their diastemas like not being able to keep small food particles from falling out of their mouths, drooling, poor speech, loosening of the teeth, tooth loss, and bleeding gums.
Some diastemas affect the function of teeth. Some people with wide diastemas experience discomfort or pain, especially when drinking, biting, or chewing. Other people with spaced teeth feel no discomfort at all.
There are various cosmetic dentistry treatment options available for correcting misaligned or spaced teeth. An orthodontic doctor can determine the cause of misalignment or spacing, and then, be able to recommend the best treatment protocol. Dental x-rays or skull x-rays may be needed.
Causes of Spaced Teeth
There are various reasons that you or your child might have widely spaced teeth. Spaced and misaligned teeth can be caused by genetics, trauma, injury, certain habits, and some diseases.
Large gaps can be temporary conditions and part of normal growth. However, diastemas can also be due to the developmental anomalies of the teeth in young children.
For instance, the growth of the jawbone may not match up well with the size of baby teeth and a better fit may occur with the development of adult teeth.
Undersized teeth or spaces caused by missing teeth can cause surrounding teeth to shift positions, attempting to close a gap. However, this shifting can cause new diastemas to develop between other teeth in the mouth.
Some children have undersized or missing upper lateral incisors, which are the teeth on either side of the upper front teeth. This can create spaces between the upper central incisors located to either side of the lateral incisors.
A diastema may also result from excessive tissue of the labial frenum, which extends from the gum line to the inside of the top lip.
Thumb sucking and tongue thrusting can cause both the upper and lower teeth to protrude and develop gaps. The spaces often become larger with time unless the habits are reversed.
A child’s teeth may also develop spaces if they have an improper swallowing reflex. The tongue should rest against the roof of the mouth when swallowing. However, some children push their tongues forward against their front teeth when they swallow, which can cause diastemas to develop over time.
Spaced teeth can also be the result of several diseases including:
- Morquio syndrome (uncommon birth defect)
- Acromegaly (a hormonal disorder of the pituitary gland)
- Sanfilippo syndrome (rare genetic metabolic condition)
- Ellis-van Creveld syndrome (inherited bone growth disorder)
Periodontal disease (gum disease) can also cause diastemas to develop. This occurs when the gums and/or jawbones degrade to the extent that causes the teeth to loosen and shift positions.
Some children develop temporary gaps as they lose their baby teeth. In most cases, these diastemas close naturally as the adult teeth settle into their final positions.
However, if diastemas result from a mismatch in the sizes of the jawbones and permanent teeth, then they are expected to remain open throughout life unless they are surgically or otherwise corrected.
Preventing Spaced Teeth
Teeth gaps caused by mismatched jawbones and adult teeth are products of genetics and cannot be avoided. Gaps due to missing teeth are also unable to be prevented.
However, there are some cases when a diastema can be improved or even reversed. For example, retraining a child to stop thumbsucking or tongue thrusting can stop existing diastemas from widening even more.
It is possible to prevent some diastemas from developing by maintaining the health of the gums and jawbones. Swishing after meals, flossing, and brushing are all helpful for avoiding periodontal disease and the bone loss and spaced teeth that it can cause.
Fixing Spaced Teeth: Braces, Veneers, & Implants
In some cases, spaced or misaligned teeth cause no functional challenges or cosmetic concerns. Some people live with gapped teeth their entire lives and are completely content.
However, some diastemas cause problems with eating, keeping the mouth sealed, and speaking. Others cause no functional issues but are concerning because of their effects on physical appearance.
There are various treatment options used for closing the gaps between teeth. The best treatment to use depends on the cause of the diastema, and various personal factors relative to each patient.
Importance of Interceptive Orthodontic Care Interceptive orthodontics is based on detecting and treating anomalies of the jawbones and teeth as early as possible, while a child still has their baby teeth.
If you notice any spaced teeth in your child’s mouth, then have their dentist examine it to see if any treatment is needed. Some parents fail to do this, believing that it doesn’t matter because the baby teeth are going to fall out anyway.
However, while diastemas are common in children as their jaws and baby teeth are developing, it’s important to not overlook proper dental care. Experts recommend having your child examined no later than the age of 7 years.
The American Association of Orthodontists asserts, ”By then, your child has enough permanent teeth for an orthodontist to evaluate the developing teeth and the jaws, which in turn can provide a wealth of information. AAO orthodontists are trained to spot subtle problems even in young children.”
Some safe and effective orthodontic treatments for gapped teeth are:
- Traditional Metal Braces
- Dental Implants
- Dental Bonding
- Damon Braces
- Lingual Braces
- Clear Aligners
Traditional Metal Braces Classic metal braces are the traditional choice for correcting minor to severe cases of misaligned, spaced, and overcrowded teeth. Today’s brackets are available in various colors, making this type of orthodontic system much more discreet than those of the past.
Damon Braces Like Speed Braces™ and In-Ovation®, Damon® Smile braces are passive and self-ligating orthodontic systems. Unlike traditional metal braces, they have a special slide that eliminates the need for elastic ligatures to hold the archwire in place. This system causes less friction, teeth binding, and pain than classic metal braces
Lingual Braces Traditional metal braces are placed on the front sides of the teeth. Lingual braces are placed on the back sides, in front of the tongue. They are much less conspicuous than classic braces, are typically worn between 18-36 months, and can cost up to $10,000.
Clear Aligners Clear aligners like Invisalign®, Simpli5®, and Clear Correct® are a series of custom-fit trays that gradually reduce the size of gaps and spaces. Preferred by those who don’t want to be noticed for their braces, this treatment for misaligned teeth costs up to $8000.
Veneers Veneers are thin coatings of porcelain or other material that cover chipped, broken, misshapen, aged, or spaced teeth. The cost up to $2000 per tooth and last up to 12 years when properly cared for. However, dental veneers are only well-suited for those with minor or aesthetic gaps in the teeth.
Dental Bonding Dental bonding is a technique that involves the application of a plastic-based resin. The resin is custom matched to the color of the patient's teeth, and then, used to add strength and enhance the aesthetics of chipped, broken, or malformed teeth. Like veneers, bonding is best-suited for minor gaps and misalignments.
Dental Implants Dental implants are long-term dental restorations that are often used to fill in gaps created by missing teeth. Titanium posts are permanently anchored into the jawbone, and then, capped with dental crowns. Single implants cost up to $3000 and can last a lifetime with proper care.
Misaligned and spaced teeth can have a dramatic impact on facial aesthetics and a person’s self-esteem. They can also cause problems with oral functions like chewing, sealing the lips, and speaking.
Early orthodontic care is important for children who have spaced or misaligned teeth. In some cases, spaces in the teeth are normal during the growth process of the jawbone. However, other cases require surgery or other corrective treatment options like braces, bonding, or other types of dental restoration.
There are various options available that can help to improve the appearance and function of gapped teeth. It is always best to consult with an orthodontist to determine the best approach for correcting spaces in the teeth.