What is a diastema?

A diastema describes a gap between the teeth. It isn’t harmful and it appears in adults and children. The gap generally closes in children as their permanent teeth pass.

A diastema is a gap wider than 0.5 millimeters between the teeth. It can grow between any teeth.

Treatment for medical reasons is not usually necessary. But if a person dislikes their diastema’s presence, the distance can be closeed or narrowed.

We discuss the causes of diastemas in this article and explain their treatment and prevention.

Causes

Diastemas are common in adults and children.

The size of the teeth in relation to the jawbone

If a person’s teeth are too small relative to the size of his jawbone, gaps between the teeth can develop.

The proportions of jawbone and tooth can be hereditary, which is one reason diastemas can run in families.

Missing or undersized teeth

If some teeth are missing, or smaller than others, may develop a diastema.

Often this includes the upper lateral incisors— the teeth on either side of the two upper forehead teeth. If the upper lateral incisors are missing or relatively small, a gap between the two forehead teeth may develop.

Oversized labial frenum

The labial frenum is the tissue that extends over the upper forehead teeth from the inside of the upper lip to the gum.

If this tissue is extremely large, it can allow a gap between these teeth to form.

Gum disease

Migration of dentures is a common symptom of advanced gum disease.

In people with gum disease, inflammation causes bone damage which supports the teeth.

The teeth will gradually become loose, and gaps can appear.

Incorrect swallowing reflex

The tongue brushes against the roof of the mouth as the swallowing reflex happens correctly.

Alternatively, a person can push his tongue against his front teeth when swallowing. Over time they are forced forward by this constant pressure on the front teeth, allowing a gap to form.

Habits

Thumb sucking, lip sucking, tongue thrusting, and similar habits can put pressure on the front teeth, pushing them forward.

This can lead to diastemas.

Loss of primary teeth

When their primary teeth or infant teeth fall out, kids can develop temporary diastemas. These holes usually close when their teeth are permanent, or adult.

This sort of gap is fairly common to dentists in children as a natural phenomenon for growth. There is usually no need for medication.

A 2012 study reports older findings that diastemas can occur in about two-thirds of children with only the central incisors. The two small teeth on the front of the upper jaw are the main incisors.

Symptoms

A visible gap between the teeth is the only indication of a diastema.

The person can experience pain and discomfort, especially while eating when their teeth become loose from gum disease.

Other signs of gum disease:

  • bright red gums
  • swollen, tender gums
  • bleeding gums
  • receding gums
  • bad breath
  • loose teeth

Diagnosis

A diastema is straightforward— the dentist diagnoses the difference in the teeth. The diastema is easy.

Usually, when they brush or flow, the person first finds the gap.

Treatment

Diaastema treatment may not be needed, especially if the gap is caused by the difference in the size of the tooth and jawbone or by primary teeth being lost.

If care is not required, but for esthetic purposes, the person wants the gap to be closed, the best approach will be decided by a dentist.

Techniques for treatment include:

Braces

Dentists typically use braces to treat diastemas. The braces press the bones, and over time they close the gap.

A complete set of braces may be required, even if there is only a gap, because moving any teeth affects the whole mouth.

Veneers or bonding

A dentist may fit veneers or carry out dental bonding as an alternative to braces.

Such alternatives can be particularly appropriate if the diastema has smaller teeth.

Dental contact involves application of resin to the teeth’s surface and then hardening of the resin with a light source.

Fitting furnace is about ensuring the condition of the teeth with thin custom-made porcelain parts.

Dental implants or a bridge

When there is a diastema due to a lack of teeth, they may require further dental work such as implants or a toothbridge.

Dental implants are placed into the jawbone and replacement teeth attached. Metal screws are inserted.

A dental bridge is a false tooth that is held on one side of the divide by an appliance which attaches to the teeth.

Surgery

If a diastem results of an overly large labial frene, a frenectomy– a procedure to remove excess tissue– may be advised by your dentist.

Older children and adults may then be required to close the gap with braces or other care. The space may close on its self in younger children.

Gum disease treatment

Environmental disease requires treatment to stop the infection and prevent complications like denture.

Scaling to extract tartar from the gums can be part of the treatment. Scaling also eliminates infection-related bacteria. Topical or oral antibiotics can also be of assistance.

Chirurgy may be necessary to remove deep tartare from under the gums in severe cases.

The dentist may use one of the above treatments to close the gap once the gum is healthy again.

Prevention

It is not possible to prevent all cases of diastema.

However, if gum disease or habits are the cause, it can help to practice good oral hygiene, by:

  • brushing the teeth twice daily
  • flossing daily
  • seeing a dentist for regular examinations and cleanings
  • avoiding thumb sucking and helping children break the habit
  • correcting improper swallowing reflexes

Outlook

Depending on the source, the outlook varies. Nevertheless, most diastemas may be removed or reduced.

Upon treatment, the distance usually remains closed unless people return to their own habits such as sucking the thumb or follow the instructions of their dentist.

When to see a dentist

When people have a diastema and are worried, people should talk to their dentist.

The American Orthodontics Association suggests that orthodontics examine all children until the age of seven.

The condition can be treated by a dentist or orthodontic and a treatment plan prescribed where appropriate.

Summary

A diastema represents a gap among teeth.

A variety of factors can cause a diastema, ranging from gum disease to tooth-to-cage ratio. An exact cause can be determined by a dentist.

Treatment is not needed in many cases. For esthetic purposes, some people decide to treat anyway.

A diastema is treated with many approaches and the results are usually irreversible.

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