You might think spacing in your smile adds character, but you also might wish you could close them. Good news: there are several treatments that can correct them — and braces are one of the most powerful, time-tested solutions.
In this guide, we’ll dive into the details of correcting teeth spacing with braces, your braces options, and some alternatives if braces aren’t the right fit for you.
Table of Contents
What is Teeth Spacing?
Teeth spacing is a condition characterized by several visible gaps throughout the dental arches. Technically called “diastemas,” gaps between teeth are often harmless and don’t require treatment, but some people would be more comfortable and confident without them.
Even though it’s typically just a cosmetic issue, severe cases can cause trouble chewing and gum issues. And if the spacing results from gum disease, you might also experience gum irritation, swelling, and redness. Mild spacing, like a gap between the two front teeth, rarely presents any serious medical concerns, but if your spacing is significant enough, your dentist might recommend orthodontic treatment.
What Causes Tooth Spacing?
Some of the most common causes are undersized teeth, oversized gums, or missing teeth, which could be genetic or the result of an injury. Other cases come from an oversized labial frenum — the thin piece of tissue connecting your upper lip to your top gums. Dental drifting, which might create gaps, is a sign of advanced gum disease, yet it’s often accompanied by gum irritation, redness, and swelling.
Habits can play a role in forming gaps too. Some children reflexively press their tongues against the roof of their mouths when they swallow, and that consistent pressure can form gaps. Childhood thumb sucking, lip sucking, and tongue thrusting can also contribute to spacing.
Can Braces Fix Teeth Spacing?
Yes! Braces are widely considered an extremely effective treatment for spacing issues, and can produce results in adults and adolescents alike. However, keep in mind that teeth spacing comes in many forms, and your results will depend on your particular case.
If you only have gaps between a few teeth and no bite issues or other complications, braces can probably realign your smile in just a few months. On the other hand, if your spacing affects many teeth and/or stems from oversized gums, undersized or missing teeth, overjet, or gum disease, correcting them may take longer or require additional types of treatment.
But don’t worry — even if the gaps between your teeth are caused or accompanied by one of the conditions listed above, treatment will still work. Their sturdiness and ability to incorporate additional dental appliances like elastics make braces capable of correcting much more sophisticated problems than spacing.
Types of Braces
Twenty years ago, if you wanted to alter your smile, traditional metal braces were pretty much the only option. However, the orthodontic industry has come a long way in the past couple of decades. Now, you have a whole range of options to choose from. Here are the four main types of braces available today.
Traditional Metal Braces
The result of a long history of innovation in orthodontia, metal braces in their present form came onto the scene around the mid-1970s. In the decades since, traditional braces have remained orthodontists’ go-to treatment for crafting beautiful smiles.
Though many adults today opt for more discreet straightening appliances — like clear aligners — standard metal braces still have a lot going for them. Treating patients with standard braces doesn’t require an orthodontist to obtain any extra training or purchase special equipment, and those savings mean they can often offer lower prices. Plus, it’s often easier to find an orthodontist who can confidently administer your treatment, as orthodontists typically have the most experience working with metal braces.
The average cost of braces is $3,000–$7,000, and the average treatment time is 12–30 months. Given that spacing issues are significantly easier to correct than bite issues, your treatment will likely fall on the lower end of both ranges. But again, if you also have a misaligned bite, your treatment might be longer and more expensive.
3M — the company behind Scotch tape and Post-Its — introduced the first clear braces in 1987. While early models were less effective at adjusting teeth, the technology has come a long way in the past 30+ years. Today, clear braces can match the power of their metal counterparts.
Clear braces work just like metal ones, but offer a sleeker aesthetic that many adults prefer, since the translucent ceramic brackets blend in with the teeth. Although clear braces typically incorporate a metal arch wire, and the brackets are often slightly larger, they’re still less noticeable than metal braces. Some people also find that the ceramic brackets are less sharp and abrasive on the cheeks and gums.
On the downside, not all orthodontists offer clear braces, so it could be difficult to find a provider. Clear braces are also typically around 10%–20% more expensive than metal ones. That said, they have approximately the same treatment duration as standard metal braces (12–30 months), and are generally regarded as effective for correcting most cases of teeth spacing.
Unlike clear braces, lingual braces are totally hidden from the rest of the world, since they’re situated behind your teeth instead of in front. You may be thinking, “that’s brilliant, how is this the first I’m hearing of it?” Well, there are a few reasons lingual braces aren’t more popular.
First of all, most orthodontists don’t offer them, since they’re harder to affix and adjust, and they require specialized training and equipment. From the patient perspective, lingual braces can create discomfort around the tongue, which can give you a minor lisp. Maintaining good oral hygiene takes more effort as well, because it’s harder to brush and floss around the brackets.
All that said, lingual braces are often considered as effective as standard braces for correcting teeth spacing. Given the extra work involved, they’re typically more expensive than other options, often costing upwards of $10,000. Again, if your case is fairly mild, you may end up with a price that’s a bit easier to swallow. If your top priority is keeping your treatment completely invisible and you have the financial means to afford it, lingual braces might be the right choice for you.
Six Month Smiles
Six Month Smiles is a unique brand of clear braces that doesn’t require an orthodontist, just a standard family dentist. As the brand name implies, the average treatment plan is around six months, but that’s because they’re only viable for milder cases.
Six Month Smiles braces utilize clear brackets and tooth-colored wires, making them one of the least noticeable types of braces available. Plus, due to the shorter treatment time, they’re typically less expensive than other braces, averaging between $3,500 and $5,000.
Given their shorter average timeframe, some Six Month Smiles providers say they’re primarily focused on shifting the front teeth. Since many cases of teeth spacing don’t require significant realignment of the back teeth, Six Month Smiles has become a popular correction method for this type of misalignment, and could be a viable option for you. Learn more in our full review of Six Month Smiles.
Wearing Braces as an Adult
Regardless of your age or the type of braces you choose, braces can certainly cause some discomfort, especially as your teeth adjust to initial placement and periodic tightening.
To minimize pain and reduce the risk of breaking a bracket, you’ll need to stay away from particularly hard or sticky foods — like chips, taffy or hard candy — as well as habits like nail-biting and gum-chewing. It’s also important to maintain good oral hygiene and use all dental appliances as instructed.
You may perceive some added stigma around getting braces as an adult, but the truth is, it’s a very common treatment at any age. Plus, between ceramic braces, lingual braces, and alternatives like clear aligners, there are more ways than ever to adjust your smile discreetly.
In the end, if spacing treatment is something you’re pursuing for the sake of your own comfort and happiness, it should be easy to remember that the long-term payoff will be well worth the temporary discomfort!
Other Teeth Spacing Treatments
While braces are a fantastic option for treating most cases of teeth spacing, some people don’t love the idea of wearing braces, or are put off by the price. If that sounds like you, there are a couple of other unobtrusive treatment options available.
In-Office Clear Aligners
Clear aligner treatments like Invisalign, which involve regular in-person supervision from a dentist, are a popular solution for spacing. Like braces, clear aligners are compatible with tooth shaving, extraction, and additional dental appliances to help correct more complex alignment issues. However, unlike braces, Invisalign and many of their competitors are available to standard dentists (rather than just orthodontists), so there’s a good chance you can get treatment at the same place you go to get your teeth cleaned.
Of course, the most notable differences between these treatment methods is that clear aligners are 1) removable, and 2) much more discreet than traditional braces. Clear aligners can shift your teeth and realign your bite about just as quickly as braces, and for approximately the same price ($3,500–$8,000). However, Invisalign isn’t the only option. ClearCorrect, 3M Clarity Aligners, and SureSmile are among several quality alternatives.
If you’re interested, learn more about some of the top brands in our guide to the six best clear aligners.
At-Home Clear Aligners
In recent years, online companies like SmileDirectClub and Byte have entered the industry to provide a more affordable option for adults seeking to straighten their teeth from home. Similar to Invisalign, you’ll receive a set of clear, removable aligners designed by a dental professional — but unlike Invisalign, your treatment won’t involve any trips to the dentist’s office.
Home aligners are often significantly less expensive than braces or Invisalign, with an average price of $1,800–$2,000. The companies that sell home aligners typically provide an opportunity to review your expected results before committing to treatment, so you’ll know exactly what to expect before moving forward. But if everything lines up, home teeth aligners might be a perfect solution for your spacing.
If you think at-home aligners might work for closing the spaces between your teeth, check out our recommendations for the top five brands.
A popular alternative to dental realignment, veneers are thin but sturdy pieces of porcelain that bond to your teeth and instantly transform your smile.
Truth be told, veneers have about as many major upsides as they do downsides for treating teeth spacing. On the plus side, they offer the possibility of immediate gratification, and cause much less discomfort than physically shifting your teeth. They’re good for people whose gaps stem from undersized teeth. However, veneers 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 to 20 years before you have to replace them, and the average cost of veneers is $500–$2,000 per tooth. If you’re simply seeking a way to enhance the appearance of your smile as quickly as possible, veneers might be worth considering.
If you like the idea of an instant smile transformation, but the permanence of traditional veneers worries you, snap-on veneers could be a great option. These removable appliances clip onto your teeth, hiding your gaps, along with stains, cracks, chips, missing teeth, and other cosmetic issues.
Companies like Shiny Smile and Removable Veneers USA customize these veneers using molds of your teeth, so they’re a perfect match. They often come in different shades and models — some for everyday use and others for occasional wear.
Snap-on veneers are much more affordable than traditional veneers and many orthodontic treatments, but they’re also not permanent, and they can be slightly uncomfortable to wear. That said, they’re a solid choice for people seeking a quick and inexpensive solution. Check out our guide to the five best snap-on veneers to learn more.
Braces are a popular teeth spacing treatment because they’re time-tested and widely trusted. That said, they’re no longer the only option for teeth spacing, and there are several affordable and convenient options available today. If you’re considering corrective treatment, choose a physician who’s dedicated to finding a treatment option that reflects your top priorities — whether they’re aesthetic, budgetary, time-sensitive, or otherwise.
Remember, having gaps in your teeth is rarely cause for medical concern, so consider your personal desires and holistic well-being when choosing a corrective treatment. We hope this guide provided you with some helpful insight for your future dental decisions!
Frequently Asked Questions
Is spacing between teeth normal?
Gaps between teeth are incredibly common among both children and adults, and they rarely cause serious oral health concerns. However, it’s still considered a misalignment.
Do you need to fix teeth spacing?
Not necessarily. Spacing doesn’t often present medical concerns. However, some cases can cause gum irritation, redness, or swelling. If you have symptoms or you simply dislike how it looks, spacing is usually easy to correct with orthodontic treatment.
How do you fix teeth spacing?
If you want to physically close the gaps, an orthodontic treatment like braces, Invisalign, or at-home aligners like Byte are great options. However, if you’d rather leave your teeth where they are and simply hide your gaps, traditional or snap-on veneers can work too.
What causes teeth spacing?
Some of the most common causes are undersized teeth, oversized gums, or missing teeth. Other cases come from an oversized labial frenum — the thin piece of tissue connecting your upper lip to your top gums. However, habits can play a role too. Some children reflexively press their tongues against the roof of their mouths when they swallow, and that consistent pressure can form gaps. Childhood thumb sucking, lip sucking, and tongue thrusting can also contribute.
How fast do braces close gaps?
On average, they take 12–30 months, but it depends almost entirely on the severity of your spacing. Minor cases can take just a few months, while severe ones will fall on the higher end of that range.
Can gaps be closed without braces?
Yes! Clear aligners are another solid option. In-office veneers like Invisalign, ClearCorrect, SureSmile, or 3M Clarity provide in-person oversight to address severe cases, while at-home aligners like Byte and SmileDirectClub can handle minor cases without any office visits.
Will I need a retainer?
If you want to keep your gaps closed, yes. While you’ll steadily wear your retainer less and less often over time, if you stop completely, your teeth will go back to their old positions.
Do braces hurt?
Braces place pressure on the teeth, and this pressure can translate into soreness, especially to biting pressure. However, this is true with aligners as well. Yet braces can also irritate the soft tissues of the mouth. Since they stick out from the teeth, it can take time to get used to them.