Tooth gap, or diastema, is a dental condition characterized by a gap between two teeth. The most common form is midline diastema, which affects only the front two teeth, but diastema can occur anywhere in the dental arches. Although the name sounds somewhat serious, a diastema is typically a totally harmless condition that rarely requires medical intervention.
That said, if your tooth gap bothers you for cosmetic reasons or causes you any type of physical discomfort, you’re in luck — it’s quite easy to correct. Braces, or even less invasive dental appliances like invisible aligners, are well-equipped to close gaps between the teeth in no time. With this in mind, let’s dive into the details of correcting diastema with braces, the various types of braces that exist today, and some alternative options if braces aren’t the right fit for you.
Table of Contents
Are Braces Effective for Tooth Gap?
Braces can treat just about any teeth or jaw misalignment, tooth gap included. Even though the condition takes many forms, you can be confident that braces can get the job done. Although the type and severity of your diastema may affect your treatment price and duration.
The most common form of diastema—a gap between the two front teeth—is no problem for braces. The treatment might close that gap in just a few months. But a more severe diastema that’s caused by oversized gums, undersized or missing teeth, overjet, or gum disease, the correction process may take longer or require supplemental treatments.
The good news is that even if your tooth gap is caused or accompanied by one of the conditions above, braces can still correct it. An orthodontist can incorporate dental attachments (like elastics) to correct more complicated issues.
And as we mentioned earlier, there’s more than just one type of braces. Read on for an analysis of each type and how well they can treat diastema.
What Types of Braces Can I Choose From?
Twenty years ago, traditional metal braces were pretty much the only show in town if you wanted to adjust your smile. However, in recent years, there’s been a whole lot of innovation around this dental technology. From ceramic braces (designed to blend in with your teeth) to sublingual braces (placed discreetly on the back of the teeth), there’s now a whole range of options to choose from. Below we’ll discuss the 4 main types of braces that are available today.
Traditional Metal Braces
The result of a long history of innovation in orthodontia, metal braces in their present form hit the scene in 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, standard metal braces still have a whole lot going for them. For one thing, treating patients with standard braces doesn’t require an orthodontist to obtain any extra training or purchase special equipment, and they often pass these savings along to the customer. Along the same lines, it’s often easier to find an orthodontist who can confidently administer your treatment, as orthodontists typically have the most experience working with this style of braces.
Braces prices often range between $3,000 and $7,000, and their average treatment time is 18 to 30 months. Given that spacing issues are significantly easier to correct than bite issues, your treatment will likely fall on the lower end of that range (both in terms of cost and duration). But again, if your diastema is accompanied by a misaligned bite, this could result in a longer and more expensive treatment.
The earliest clear braces were introduced in 1987 by 3M (makers of Scotch tape and many other popular consumer brands). 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 achieve adjustments quite comparable to their metal counterparts.
Clear braces work just like metal braces but offer a sleeker aesthetic preferred by many adults. They replace standard metal brackets with translucent, ceramic ones that blend in with the teeth. Although clear braces typically incorporate a metal archwire, and the brackets tend to be a bit larger, they are overall much less noticeable than standard metal braces. Some people also find that the ceramic brackets are less sharp on the gums and therefore more comfortable to wear.
On the downside, not all orthodontists offer this type of treatment, so it may be somewhat difficult for you to find a local provider if there aren’t many clinics in your area. Clear braces also tend to be more expensive (around 10%-20% more) than standard metal braces. That said, clear braces have approximately the same treatment duration as standard metal braces (18-30 months), and are just as effective for correcting most cases of tooth gap — provided that you’re able to locate a qualified orthodontist to administer them!
Unlike clear braces, and even invisible aligners, lingual braces are truly hidden from the rest of the world: these braces are placed on the back of the teeth instead of the front. You may be thinking, “that’s brilliant, how is this the first I’m hearing of it?” There are a few reasons.
First of all, most orthodontists don’t offer this treatment option. This style of braces is more difficult to affix and adjust and requires specialized training and equipment. From the patient perspective, lingual braces can create uncomfortable pressure around the tongue, which often results in a minor lisp. Maintaining good oral hygiene takes more effort as well, as it can be tricky to brush and floss around the inward-facing brackets.
All that said, if you can find a local orthodontist who is willing and able to administer them, lingual braces are just as effective as standard braces for correcting tooth gap. Given the extra work involved, they tend to be more expensive than other options, often costing upwards of $10,000 for a full course of treatment. However, if your particular case of diastema is quite straightforward and only requires adjusting a few teeth, you may end up with a price quote that’s a bit easier to swallow.
If your top priority is keeping your treatment invisible and you have the financial means to afford it, lingual braces may be the right choice for you.
Six Month Smiles
Six Month Smiles is a unique brand of clear braces that can be applied by a standard family dentist rather than an orthodontist. As the brand name implies, these braces come with the promise of straighter teeth in 6 months (although sometimes treatment can take an extra month or two to achieve the desired results).
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 tend to be less expensive than the options above, averaging between $3,500 and $5,000 for a six-month course of treatment.
It’s worth noting that these braces are most effective in cases where only the front teeth need much adjusting. Since most cases of diastema don’t require significant realignment of the back teeth, Six Month Smiles has become a popular correction method for this type of misalignment, and may very well be a viable option for you.
What is it Like to Wear 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) and certain behaviors (like nail-biting and gum-chewing) for the duration of your treatment. It’s also important to maintain proper dental hygiene during treatment and use all appliances as instructed.
You might be hesitant to wear braces as an adult, and you’re not alone. But braces aren’t just for kids and they won’t ruin your social life. It’s very common for adults to get braces and all a few newer styles are much more discreet than the metal brackets you might be imagining.
In the end, if corrective 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!
Can Tooth Gap be Treated Without Braces?
There’s no denying that braces are effective. But they can also be pricey and pretty visible, which might have you looking for other options. Some of the alternatives can be faster, cheaper, and/or more discreet.
Invisalign: If you want the same teeth-moving power that braces offers but without all the metal, Invisalign is a great option. It’s effective in treating adult diastema, and can incorporate attachments to correct more complicated conditions. Invisalign provides a series of removable clear aligners that slowly shift your teeth into their new positions. Invisalign has shorter average treatment times (12-18 months) and they can be administered by a dentist, while braces require an orthodontist.
And the best part of all: they’re practically invisible! Rarely will anyone be able to notice them on your teeth. In most cases, braces and Invisalign prices are fairly similar, so your clear aligner treatment will be around $3,000 – $8,000.
To learn more about treating tooth gap with Invisalign, check out our comprehensive guide.
Home Teeth Aligners: Companies like SmileDirectClub and byte have taken Invisalign’s clear aligner model and made it more convenient. They use a remote team of licensed dentists to create and monitor aligner treatment plans. You’ll receive all of your aligners by mail and administer them entirely from home.
Because home aligner treatment doesn’t involve office visits, it’s much cheaper, often between $1,800 and $2,000. However, it can’t treat severe cases and most bite issues. But because they often treat milder conditions, they work faster, often delivering results in around 6 months. If you have a mild or moderate condition (like a diastema between two teeth), at-home aligners are a great option.
Over the past several years, a bunch of home aligner companies have popped up. Take a look at our guide to the top 5 home aligner companies for our top picks.
Veneers: A popular alternative to dental realignment, veneers are thin but sturdy pieces of porcelain that bond to your teeth to transform your smile instantaneously.
Veneers are a common option for mild cases of diastema, and they might seem ideal, but you should understand the downsides of the process before committing. Yes, you’ll have a brand new smile when you walk out of the office and you won’t have to deal with the discomfort of physically shifting your teeth, but you should also remember that veneers don’t correct the underlying issue.
Plus, they can be expensive, anywhere between $500 – $2,000 per tooth, and you’ll need to have them replaced every 7-20 years. On top of that, your orthodontist will need to “prep” or shave down your teeth before applying veneers, and this is an irreversible process. Even so, if you’re simply seeking a way to enhance the appearance of your smile as quickly as possible, and your condition is pretty minor, veneers might be worth considering.
Tooth gap might have you looking in the mirror and wishing for a different smile, but take heart in the fact that it’s a fairly minor condition, one that can be easily corrected by braces. And if you’re unsure about traditional braces treatment, you have several alternatives that can be equally effective. As you weigh your options, consider your top priorities and do ample research on each treatment type. That way, you can be confident that your treatment is the right fit for you and your smile.