If your dentist says that you have diastema, your reaction might range on a spectrum from unease to mild panic. But even though it sounds like a horrible disease, the reality is much more innocuous. Diastema is a fancy word for a simple condition: a gap between your teeth.
The diastema definition comes from the Greek word meaning “the space between.” You probably don’t need a dentist to tell you that you have diastema, though you might not have heard it by name: chances are the gaps in your teeth are apparent in the mirror. But as familiar as they might be, many people with tooth gaps wonder what causes them and how they can be treated.
What Causes Diastema?
There are many different causes of diastema. The most common is a difference between the size of your teeth and the size of your jaw. Small teeth or a large jaw can both impact the spacing of your teeth, leaving gaps (or, in the opposite case, causing crowding). Certain childhood habits like thumb-sucking or pushing your tongue against your teeth can also lead to spaces as your adult teeth grow in. Factors such as an unerupted or lost tooth can also lead to a large gap where the missing tooth should be. For example, a missing lateral incisor can lead to a gap between your front teeth as they shift apart to fill the space. Canine diastema describes a gap between a canine and the surrounding teeth.
One serious condition which causes your teeth to shift is periodontitis. This advanced form of gum disease results in bone loss, which causes teeth to become mobile. Gaps may worsen in time without treatment for periodontitis. However, in most other cases, diastema is unlikely to get worse (or better) on its own.
Is Diastema Closure an Option?
Many causes of tooth spaces come down to the way our teeth develop as we grow. The good news is that diastema isn’t going to cause you any serious dental issues. As long as you’re still careful to brush diligently and clean between your teeth, the only problem diastema itself presents is cosmetic. But, of course, for many people, that’s more than enough reason to have it fixed. While some gaps are barely noticeable, other cases are impossible to ignore.
Orthodontics is the primary solution to correcting diastema. Braces can help pull your teeth together and create a smile unbroken by gaps. Composite resin or crowns can repair small gaps between teeth. Implants or bridges, on the other hand, fill in gaps from missing teeth.
The Choice Is Yours
One way or another, a gap-toothed smile isn’t the end of the world. In fact, many celebrities have diastema. From Madonna to Elton John, people live every day with gaps in their teeth. But other celebrities, like Zac Efron, appear to have had the gap corrected.
The decision to either correct your diastema or learn to embrace it is all up to you. With a bit of extra love, tooth gaps can be beautiful too! At Pinnacle Dental Associates, we want to help you love the smile you see in the mirror. If you have any questions about diastema, we would love to hear from you.