Everything You Need to Know About Spaces/Gaps Between Teeth

An example of spaces or gaps between teeth

Spaces-gaps-between-teeth

What Are Gaps Between Teeth? What Causes Gaps Between Teeth? What is Diastema? Treatment Options and More

Gaps between teeth are unwanted spaces between two or more of the teeth – some people may only have a single gap (a diastema), or several gaps.

Gaps between teeth are treatable with orthodontic intervention, or a combination of both orthodontic and prosthetic work.

Whatever issues arise from gaps between teeth, braces or Invisalign treatment in the hands of an experienced orthodontist can both be excellent options to correct the problem and create healthy, properly aligned smiles for patients of all ages.

Read on to learn more about gaps between teeth and how orthodontic treatment can help.

Table of Contents

What Are Gaps | Causes | Signs | How to Treat | Before & After | FAQs

What Are Gaps Between Teeth?

Gaps are too-large spaces between two or more of the teeth.

When teeth do not grow in properly or are pushed out of alignment, one of the issues that may occur is gaps between teeth. The teeth are spaced too far apart, leaving room between them instead of touching each other.

Some people may have only one gap – often between the top front teeth, which is called a diastema – while others may have gaps between several teeth.

Gaps between teeth can have harmful effects on your teeth and mouth, as well as your overall health. It also may cause embarrassment or dissatisfaction with your smile, which can decrease confidence.

What Are the Causes of Gaps?

Gaps between teeth may be caused by several different factors.

Common Causes of Gaps:

  • Natural skeletal development, where the teeth simply grow in this way
  • Extra teeth, which push other teeth out of the correct positions
  • Missing teeth, which create a large gap or cause other teeth to fill the gap improperly
  • Losing baby teeth too young, so the adult teeth grow in misaligned
  • Small teeth, which don’t take up the proper amount of room
  • Large jawbone, which creates too much room for the teeth and creates a gap.
  • Too-large tongue, which causes the teeth to flare and creates spaces between the teeth
  • Periodontal disease, which cases bone-loss between the teeth: teeth become mobile (shaking) and shift, causing gaps between them
  • High frenum attachment (the band of skin between teeth attaching lip to the jaw) can cause spacing to develop

Spaces caused by small teeth

Spaces caused by missing teeth

Spaces caused by gum recession and traumatic bite

Spaces caused by small teeth and deep overbite

Spaces caused by large frenum and small teeth

Spaces caused by small teeth and frenum

External Factors

Gaps may also be created by external factors: habits like thumb-sucking or tongue-thrusting can push teeth out of alignment, causing a gap to appear over time. Or losing a tooth can cause the teeth next to it to spread into that hole, causing gaps on either side.

Whatever the cause, gaps between teeth can be corrected. Some patients will require both orthodontic intervention and prosthetics to correct, with orthodontic treatment occurring before prosthetic correction. Both braces and Invisalign are effective in closing gaps between teeth if used by an experienced orthodontist.

What are the Signs of Gaps Between Teeth?

You can usually tell if you have a gap simply by looking at your smile in the mirror: in a properly-aligned smile, you shouldn’t see any gaps. However, gaps may be small and subtle, or in the back of your mouth where you can’t see them. And sometimes what appears to be a gap may be in fact an improperly-rotated tooth.

One good way to check for gaps in your teeth is while flossing. Using a medium-length piece of floss, wrap your fingers around either end, then insert the floss between your teeth. You should feel a small amount of resistance as the floss slides between your teeth. If you feel no resistance, because the floss can slide between the teeth without touching either tooth, the gap between those teeth is too large.

If you have gaps between your teeth, consult with a licensed, experienced orthodontist in an accredited, dedicated orthodontist’s office to talk about treatment options. If left untreated, those gaps may cause gingival irritation and food impaction, causing gingivitis and periodontitis.

Are Gaps Bad for Your Teeth?

Yes, gaps can cause problems for your teeth and overall health.

When children still have a mix of baby and adult teeth, gaps are normal as the teeth are falling out and growing in at different rates. The gaps may resolve themselves on their own when all the adult teeth come in. Your child’s orthodontist will carefully monitor how the teeth are growing in, and if it seems that gaps will not be corrected naturally, then orthodontic intervention will likely be necessary.

If gaps are not corrected when adult teeth fully erupt, there can be negative consequences:

  • Self-esteem or confidence issues/being embarrassed to smile
  • Misaligned teeth
  • Extra bacterial growth and plaque build-up from misaligned teeth
  • Tooth decay
  • Periodontal disease
  • Trouble biting, chewing, or swallowing
  • Gingival inflammation due to food impacting on unprotected gum between the teeth

Properly-aligned teeth are key to overall health. After all, your mouth is the gateway to the rest of your body; keeping them clean and healthy is extremely important for the lifelong health of the rest of you!

How to Treat Gaps Between Teeth

Luckily, gaps between teeth are treatable with careful intervention by an experienced orthodontist, and one of the many conditions licensed orthodontists are specifically trained to address. There are several different treatment methods for correcting gaps between teeth: Invisalign is very effective for this condition, as are metal and ceramic braces. A retainer will also be used to keep gaps from re-opening.
Adult Braces Patient Smiling with Silver Bands

Braces

Braces are an effective, convenient, and affordable method for correcting gaps between teeth. There are several braces options, including metal, ceramic, and lingual (Incognito®) braces – depending on your diagnosis, you may be eligible for all of these. Orthodontists have used braces to help many thousands of people close their gaps.

Person Holding Invisalign Aligner with Case

Invisalign Clear Aligners

Invisalign treatment is a reliable, effective, and comfortable way to treat a gap between teeth when supervised by an experienced Invisalign doctor.  Clear aligners are growing in popularity across the country since they can achieve the same results as traditional braces without the appearance of metal in your mouth, are less invasive, and can successfully correct gaps in teeth for teenagers and adults alike.

Avoid Mail-Order Brands

Mail-order companies use teledentists, which can have serious consequences for your treatment since you lose the benefit of in-office supervision and face-to-face care. Thousands of consumer complaints have been filed against mail-order aligner companies, and the American Association of Orthodontists recently issued an advisory warning against their use. Think carefully before entrusting the health of your smile to a video screen.

Smiling Adult Male Patient

Dental Bonding

Dental bonding is sometimes necessary to fully close gaps between teeth. This is typically the case when gaps are caused by having very small teeth. For dental bonding to be effective, teeth need to be positioned properly before the bonding procedure can happen. Orthodontic treatment is therefore usually required prior to dental bonding for best results.

When looking for solutions for gaps in your teeth, be sure to pick a licensed, experienced orthodontist in a dedicated orthodontist’s office, which will have access to the most effective materials and technology. A general dentist may not have the same equipment or expertise as an orthodontist’s office and may cost more.

Retainers

Retainers

Retainers are used as a protective measure after other orthodontic treatments: whether you get braces or Invisalign, your orthodontist will provide you with a retainer (either plastic & metal or a set of clear aligners), that you will wear at night to keep your smile in place and gaps in teeth from coming back.

Because gaps will re-appear if not tended to after treatment, most orthodontists recommend a bonded retainer (glued behind your teeth) to keep aligned teeth in place.

Whatever retainers you use, it’s very important to wear them as instructed to maintain the results of your orthodontic care.

Treating Gaps Between Teeth: Before & After

Omar, 34 years old, space closure, before and after Invisalign treatment

Omar, 34 years old, space closure, before and after Invisalign treatment

Nigel, 35 years old, small teeth spaces, before and after Invisalign treatment

Nigel, 35 years old, small teeth spaces, before Invisalign treatment
Nigel, 35 years old, small teeth spaces, after Invisalign treatment

Frequently Asked Questions About Gaps Between Teeth