Your tooth gaps might be the perfect little quirk to give your smile extra personality, or they might be something you’ve always wanted to fix.
If spaces between your teeth bother you for cosmetic reasons or cause you any physical discomfort, you’re in luck — they’re easy to correct. Let’s dive into the details of correcting diastema with braces, the types of braces available, and some alternatives if braces aren’t the right fit for you.
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What Are Tooth Gaps?
Tooth gaps, or diastemas, are exactly what they sound like — small spaces between your teeth. They’re most common between the front two teeth, but a diastema can occur anywhere in the dental arches. While you might not like how these gaps look, they’ll rarely ever affect your oral health. In fact, people in some parts of the world consider teeth gaps the standard for a beautiful smile.
Most cases of diastema don’t come with symptoms, but if your gaps stem from gum disease, however, you may experience gum irritation, redness, or swelling.
Otherwise, you can leave your gaps untreated without any consequences for your oral health. The primary reason people correct them with orthodontic treatment is because they don’t like how the gaps look.
What Causes Tooth Gaps?
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 gap formation.
Can Braces Fix Tooth Gaps?
Braces can treat just about any teeth or jaw misalignment, tooth gaps included. Even though diastemas take many forms, you can be confident in braces to get the job done. Although the type and severity of your spacing may affect your treatment price and duration.
The most common form of diastema — a space between the two front teeth — is no problem for braces. The treatment might close that gap in just a few months. But for more severe cases caused by oversized gums, undersized or missing teeth, overjet, or gum disease, the correction process may take longer or require supplemental treatments.
But don’t worry — even if one of those conditions causes gaps between your teeth, you can still get them corrected. Thanks to their sturdiness and ability to pair with supplemental appliances like elastics, braces can correct much more complex problems than spacing issues.
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.
Traditional Metal Braces
The result of a long history of innovation in orthodontia, modern metal braces 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 — like clear aligners — standard metal braces still have a lot going for them. For example, 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 their average treatment time is 12 to 30 months. Given that spacing issues are significantly easier to correct than bite issues, your treatment will probably fall on the lower end of both ranges — and possibly go even lower. But if you also have a bite issue like overbite or crossbite, your treatment will likely 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 just as effective for correcting most cases of tooth gap.
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 just as effective as standard braces for correcting teeth crowding. 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 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 and aligners 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.
Their 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.
Six Month Smiles is most effective at treating cases where only the front teeth require significant adjustment. Since many cases of crowding don’t require significant realignment of the back teeth, Six Month Smiles has become a popular option to treat it. 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 diastema 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!
Treating Gaps Without Braces
There’s no denying that braces are effective. But they can also be time-consuming, expensive, and pretty noticeable, which might have you looking for other options. Some alternatives can be faster, cheaper, and more discreet.
In-Office Clear Aligners
If you want the same teeth-moving power that braces offer but without all the metal, clear aligners like Invisalign are a great option. With regular in-person supervision from a dentist and the ability to incorporate attachments, they’re an effective solution for adult diastema. These treatments use a series of removable clear aligners that slowly shift your teeth into their new positions. Invisalign and their competitors have 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 notice them on your teeth. In most cases, braces and Invisalign prices are fairly similar, so the cost of your Invisalign treatment will be around $3,000–$8,000.
However, Invisalign isn’t the only option. ClearCorrect, 3M Clarity Aligners, and SureSmile are among several equally effective alternatives. If you’re interested, learn more about some of the top brands in our guide to the six best clear aligners.
At-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 around $1,800–$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 six months. If you have a mild or moderate condition (like a space 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.
A popular alternative to dental realignment, veneers are thin but sturdy pieces of porcelain that bond to your teeth and 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. On the plus side, veneers offer the possibility of immediate gratification and cause much less discomfort than physically shifting your teeth. They’re particularly well-suited for people whose gaps stem from undersized teeth. However, veneers are not a permanent solution, since they don’t actually correct the underlying spacing issue.
Plus, the average cost of veneers is between $500 and $2,000 per tooth, and you’ll need to replace them every 7–20 years. Plus, your dentist 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.
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.
The extra space between your teeth might have you looking in the mirror and wishing for a different smile, but remember that it’s a very common condition, and one that can be easily corrected if you so desire. And if you’re unsure about traditional braces, there are several other options 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 tooth spacing.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are tooth gaps a problem?
Most of the time, it’s just a cosmetic issue. So, if you like the way your gap looks, you don’t need to close it. However, there are cases where a space between two teeth can throw the rest out of alignment.
Why did I develop a tooth gap as an adult?
There are usually two reasons for an adult to develop spaces between the teeth: not wearing a retainer after earlier orthodontic treatment, and periodontal disease. The first is easy to correct; just get refinement treatment and stick to your retainer wear schedule after. The second will require more extensive oral healthcare before you can bridge the gap.
Are braces the best option for closing a gap?
Not necessarily. They are time and cost-efficient in most cases, and if your spacing is due to a larger misalignment, they could be the only treatment option. However, for most adults, other methods will be more comfortable while delivering the same results.
How long would I wear braces when correcting tooth gaps?
That depends on many factors, including what other teeth need to be moved, how well your body responds to braces, and the size of the gap.
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.
How often will I need to get my braces adjusted?
It depends on your overall alignment, but for simple tooth gaps, usually every six to eight weeks.
Am I better off with Invisalign over braces?
Both are great options for closing a tooth gap. Which is right for you depends on your preferences. Braces can be slightly less expensive, while Invisalign is removable and practically invisible.
Will I need to wear a retainer after closing my gap?
If you want to keep it 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.