Diastema, or tooth gap, is one of the most common dental conditions among adults — and despite what you may have heard, it’s most often totally harmless. Even so, many people wish to close the gap(s) in their teeth for the sake of feeling more comfortable with their smile.
If this sounds like you, you’re in luck: these days, there are a number of viable treatment methods available for folks seeking to correct spacing issues quickly, discreetly, and without breaking the bank. With this in mind, let’s get into the details of what diastema is, what causes is, and the best options for correcting it in adulthood.
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What is Diastema (Tooth Gap)?
Diastema is a dental condition characterized by visible spacing between teeth. The most common form is midline diastema, which refers to a gap between the front two teeth in the upper jaw. This condition is sometimes accompanied by an oversized labial frenum (the tissue between the two front teeth).
Although this is the most common location for a tooth gap, it can also occur elsewhere in the dental arches and affect any number of teeth. There is no set measurement to determine what qualifies as diastema, but it is generally considered to be present if there is any visible space between the teeth.
What Causes Tooth Gap?
Tooth gaps are often the result of undersized teeth or oversized gums (most commonly an oversized labial frenum). When the teeth are slightly too small for the jaw, this can result in one or more gaps forming in the dental arches. Additionally, if the gum tissue between two teeth is too large, this can force the teeth apart as they grow in.
Hypodontia, or the natural absence of some teeth, is another cause of tooth gaps. It’s relatively common to be born without certain teeth (most commonly missing are the lateral incisors), and this absence leads to more space between the remaining teeth. All of these conditions are typically hereditary in origin, as genetics play a large role in how the teeth and jaw grow.
Is It a Medical Issue?
Although its name sounds like some sort of disease — which some try to argue it is — the truth is in most cases, diastema is totally harmless. Having a tooth gap does not pose any risk to a person’s teeth or overall health, and is generally considered a cosmetic concern alone.
Severe cases of teeth spacing are sometimes a result of gum disease, or bite alignment issues such as overjet. These cases can pose additional complications such as jaw pain and tooth decay. In these instances, patients seeking corrective treatment may need to take additional measures to treat the underlying cause before or during treatment for the spacing issue itself.
All that said, the risks associated with typical cases of diastema are quite minimal. If the space between your teeth causes you any type of physical discomfort, such as difficulty chewing, or keeps you from feeling totally comfortable with your smile, it’s worth considering one of the treatment options below. Otherwise, there’s most likely no need to worry!
Top 4 Ways to Correct Tooth Gap in Adults
If you’ve decided as an adult that it’s time to consider correcting your tooth gap(s), don’t fret! No matter what you’ve heard, it’s possible to treat diastema at any age, regardless of the cause or severity. In any case, you’ll need to work with a dentist to determine the best treatment method for your unique teeth.
With all this in mind, let’s discuss the 4 best ways to correct diastema:
Braces are incredibly effective at correcting teeth spacing, even when it’s caused or accompanied by a more complex issue such as overjet. In addition to dental correction, braces can also achieve a degree of skeletal realignment when paired with elastics and other specialized appliances. The main downside of braces is their visibility, since most adults favor treatment options that are less conspicuous.
If your excess spacing is caused by an underlying bite issue, braces are an excellent treatment option, often working more quickly than other correction methods. That said, treatment with braces can be pretty pricey, generally ranging between $3,000-$7,000. If your tooth gap is not accompanied by any other complications, it may be worth considering one of the other less invasive (and less expensive) treatment options on this list.
Known for having pioneered the world’s first clear, removable teeth aligners, Invisalign is another viable treatment option for correcting teeth spacing in adults. If your tooth gap is accompanied by overjet or some other bite issue, Invisalign can be paired with additional dental appliances to help correct it, just like traditional braces. However, unlike braces, Invisalign can be provided by a standard dentist (rather than an orthodontist), so there’s a good chance your treatment can be administered at the same place you go to get your teeth cleaned.
Of course, the most notable differences between these treatment methods is that Invisalign is 1) removable, and 2) much more discreet than traditional braces. That said, Invisalign clear aligner trays are able to shift your teeth about equally as quickly as braces, and for approximately the same price (between $3,500-$8,000).
3) Home Teeth Aligners
While Invisalign remains the best-known option for removable teeth aligners, there are many others available today. In the past few years, a number of online companies like Smile Direct Club have entered the industry to provide a more affordable option for adults seeking to straighten their teeth and correct spacing issues from home.
Similar to the Invisalign treatment process, you’ll receive a set of clear, removable aligners customized to your teeth by a dental professional — but unlike Invisalign, your care will be handled entirely remotely and not require any trips to the dentist’s office.
Home alignment products are significantly more affordable than braces or Invisalign, with an average cost of $1,800-$2,000. All in all, unless your tooth gap is the result of severe bite misalignment, home teeth alignment is most likely a viable option for you.
To learn more, we encourage you to read our review of the top 5 home teeth aligners.
A popular alternative to dental realignment, veneers are thin but sturdy pieces of porcelain that bond to your teeth in order to transform your smile instantaneously.
Truth be told, veneers have about as many major upsides as they do downsides for correcting tooth gap. On the positive side, veneers offer the possibility of immediate gratification, and cause much less discomfort than physically shifting your teeth. However, they are not a permanent solution, as they do not actually correct the underlying spacing issue.
Depending on the type you choose, veneers last anywhere from 7-20 years (after which they need to be replaced), and cost between $500-$2,000 per tooth. If you’re seeking a way to enhance the appearance of your smile as quickly as possible, veneers may be worth considering.
Although diastema is seldom medically necessary to correct, it’s certainly worth considering if you’re experiencing any type of discomfort — physical, emotional or otherwise. These days, braces are no longer the one-and-only option for correcting teeth spacing, nor is emptying your bank account necessary to be happy with your smile.
If you’re concerned that your tooth gap(s) may be stemming from a more serious underlying issue, it’s a good idea to consult a dentist to gain a better understanding of your condition. We encourage you to do some more research on the treatment options above to determine the best path for you. And remember, there’s always the option to keep rocking your gap!