How to Close the Gap Between Your Teeth
Many adults have a gap between their front teeth, and although the space does not affect function, some individuals simply do not like the way it looks. Those who are bothered by it may be interested to learn ways to correct it.
What Causes a Gap Between the Teeth?
“Diastema is a space between the front teeth, and it’s very common,” says John Weston, DDS, FAACD, director of Scripps Center for Dental Care in La Jolla, Calif.
As many as 98 percent of 6 year olds have midline diastema, according to a 2006 article published in the Journal of Orthodontics, but the incidence decreases with age. Between 5 and 20 percent of adults are estimated to have a gap between the front teeth.
Before correcting a gap between the teeth, it’s important to determine why the space occurred in the first place. Some reasons a gap between the front teeth may be present in adults:
- Bone or soft tissue interference – Any defect that prevents the teeth from touching can create a gap.
- Arch and tooth-size discrepancy – Teeth that are too small to fill the dental arch may lead to spacing problems.
- Swallowing habits – Pressure exerted by tongue thrusting can increase the risk of spaces between the teeth. Unless the habit is changed, it’s likely the gap will occur again down the road.
- Race and genetics – Research indicates blacks are more likely to have gaps between the front teeth than whites, and a study conducted in Great Britain found that individuals of Chinese descent had the lowest incidence of diastema. The same study also reported that, at age 14, the syndrome was more common in boys than in girls.
How to Close a Gap Between Your Teeth
“Orthodontics is one way to fix a gap between the front teeth,” says Dr. Weston. “But for those who can’t afford orthodontic treatment or who don’t want braces, there are other options.”
Bonding. One way to fill the gap without resorting to orthodontics is dental bonding. “The procedure can be done chairside in one to 1½ hours and it is almost imperceptible,” says Weston.
Using the same tooth-colored composite resin material that is used for dental fillings, the material is hand-sculpted and shaped by the doctor. Over time the plastic wears down and can become discolored, but Weston estimates the cosmetic repair will last between seven and 10 years.
Bonding can usually be done in a single office visit and is less expensive than other options. Since the doctor is responsible for shaping the material, Weston suggests checking out the skill level of the dentist who will be performing the procedure.
Veneers. Another option is a partial or full dental veneer. Made of porcelain, glass or ceramic, veneers are fabricated in a lab and bonded to the surface of the tooth. Dental veneers can be expected to last between 10 and 15 years.
Veneers are strong, durable and look very natural. The process requires two office visits and the cost is more than that of direct bonding.
Bands that are available online and sold directly to patients to correct the gap between the front teeth should be used with caution, says Weston. Closing a gap in one place could create one in another place. Moving the teeth around could also interfere with function and bite. “It sounds good, but patients may not get long-term results, and they could create other issues down the line.”
Before starting self-treatment, he suggests patients first see a dentist for a thorough evaluation.