The term diastema refers to a gap or space which develops between the teeth. These spaces can form anywhere in the mouth, but are usually most noticeable when they form between the two upper front teeth. A diastema can form in both adults and children, but in children, the gaps have a chance of disappearing when adult teeth grow in.
How Do Diastemas Form?
Diastemas aren't formed by one single cause, but instead are the result of several contributing factors. Some of these, according to HealthLine, relate to the size of an individual's teeth and jaw. If a person's teeth are too small for their jawbone, teeth are spaced too far apart. Because bone structure is determined genetically, diastema can run in families.
Another possible contributing factor could be an overgrowth of the tissue that borders your gumline and upper front teeth. If it grows too thick, it can wedge a gap between the teeth. Diastemas can also develop as a result of gum disease, or from bad habits like thumb sucking or incorrect swallowing reflexes.
Treatment for Diastema
The severity and cause of an individual's diastema determines the necessity (and urgency) of treatment. For some, a gap in their teeth is nothing more than a cosmetic issue. For others, it indicates something worse, like gum disease. It's important to consult with a dentist and possibly an orthodontist before deciding how to proceed. The following are several notable options for diastema treatment:
Braces are perhaps the most common treatment for diastema. Individuals who need braces can choose traditional wire-and-bracket braces, or opt for invisible aligners, though wire braces are stronger and more effective.
Porcelain Veneers or Tooth Bonding
These procedures involve using a tooth-coloured composite or other material to either fill in gaps or fit like a glove over a misshapen tooth or teeth to help a smile appear more balanced. Porcelain veneers and tooth bonding can also be useful when it comes to fixing cracked and chipped teeth.
Dental bridges can be used in more extreme cases. A dental bridge is basically an artificial tooth bonded to adjacent teeth to fill a gap.
Surgery to Remove Excess Tissue
If the cause of your diastema is excess tissue, you can have surgery to remove it and correct the gap.
Gum Disease Treatment
If you've been diagnosed with gum disease, treatment to stop the infection must take precedence over your diastema.
Materials options for closing a diastema include titanium, zirconium, gold, silver, amalgam, composite and acrylic resin. Titanium is a good option and is often used for dental implants because of its ability to easily bond with organic tissue. Zirconium also bonds well, and has the added bonuses of being hypoallergenic and similarly coloured to natural teeth. However, it also sometimes is abrasive to neighboring teeth. Gold is usually used for crowns, but doesn't match teeth's natural colour and can be unappealing aesthetically when used to close a diastema.
Amalgam is an effective sealant made from a blend of multiple metal components. However, much of its materials are being replaced with composite resin, and so some dentists just opt for composite directly. Composite is an ideal alternative to use when placing fillings, and is especially convenient because of its ability to be spread and hardened instantly using a blue lamp. It's great for filling cavities, bonding, and sealing crowns and bridges, but costs a bit more than amalgam. Acrylic resin is a good material because it's strong and shatterproof, but tends to deteriorate in oral environments – a problem that a 2017 Intech Open study suggests researchers still seek to fix.
Below is a comparison chart of the different material options and their respective pros and cons.
|Bonds well with organic tissue
Not aesthetically appealing
Bonds well with organic tissue
Colour looks natural
|Can be abrasive to adjacent teeth
Good for crowns
|Not aesthetically appealing
Components widely being replaced
Ideal alternative to silver in fillings
Spreadable and instantly hardening
Good for bonding and sealing teeth
|Costs more than other options
|Deteriorates over time
Though not all diastemas are preventable, you can reduce your risk of developing a gap by avoiding bad habits like thumb sucking and improper swallowing reflexes, and by practicing good oral hygiene.
Cosmetic Dentistry at City Dentists
City Dentists offers a range of cosmetic dentistry options that could help you close a diastema (or address another dental issue). Browse our website to learn more about the services we offer, or call our office to schedule a time to come in for a consultation!