- Diastema refers to a gap or space between two teeth, usually the front teeth in the upper jaw
- Diastema can be caused by various factors, including genetics, mismatch between jaw and teeth size, habits such as thumb sucking, or gum issues
- In some cultures, diastema is considered an attractive trait, while in others, it might be seen as an aesthetic issue
- Treatment for diastema is not always necessary but depends on the underlying cause and personal preference
- Options for managing diastema range from orthodontic solutions like braces to cosmetic procedures such as dental bonding or veneers
What is Diastema?
Diastema is a term used in dentistry to describe a gap or space between two teeth. This gap can occur between any two teeth but is most commonly associated with the upper front teeth. Diastema is not necessarily a dental problem unless it is caused by an underlying condition or affects a person’s self-esteem or oral function.
The size of the gap can vary. For some, it’s hardly noticeable, while for others, it’s a prominent feature of their smile.
Who Does Diastema Affect?
Diastema can affect anyone, regardless of age or gender. However, it is more commonly seen in children and might close as they grow and their permanent teeth come in.
- Children: Many children experience diastema as milk teeth fall out and permanent teeth grow in. It is quite common for gaps to naturally close over time or once the permanent teeth have fully come in.
- Adults: Adults can also have diastema. For some, it’s a continuation from childhood that never closed. For others, it can develop over time due to various reasons such as gum disease or teeth crowding.
Is a Diastema Normal?
Whether a diastema is considered normal can depend on various factors, including cultural attitudes and the underlying cause of the gap.
- Cultural Perception: In some cultures, a gap between the front teeth is considered attractive or even a sign of prosperity. For others, it is viewed as an aesthetic issue that should be corrected.
- Underlying Cause: If the diastema is due to genetics and there are no underlying dental issues, it can be considered a normal variation of tooth spacing. However, if the gap is due to an oral health issue, such as gum disease or misalignment, it’s important to address the underlying cause.
- Personal Preference: For some individuals, a diastema is just a unique feature of their smile that they are happy to keep. Others might feel self-conscious and seek treatment to close the gap.
In medical terms, diastema is often considered a normal variation in dental anatomy, but when it is the result of underlying dental issues or if it causes distress, seeking consultation with a dentist for possible treatment options is advisable.
How Does Diastema Affect My Oral Health?
Diastema in itself may not have a direct detrimental effect on oral health, especially if it is a natural space between teeth without an underlying issue. However, in some cases, it can have implications on dental health.
- Plaque Accumulation: The spaces created by diastema can sometimes harbor food particles, which may lead to the accumulation of plaque. This, in turn, can increase the risk of tooth decay and gum disease if good oral hygiene is not maintained.
- Misalignment and Bite Issues: When diastema is caused by issues such as an oversized labial frenum or mismatched jaw and teeth size, it might be associated with malocclusion or misalignment of the teeth. This can sometimes affect the bite and cause issues with chewing or even speaking.
- Psychological Impact: Although not a physical health issue, it’s important to note that for some individuals, having a diastema can affect self-esteem and confidence, especially if they are conscious of their smile. This can impact overall mental health and quality of life.
What are the Symptoms of Diastema?
The most evident symptom of diastema is the visible gap or space between two teeth. The gap can vary in size, and it is most commonly noticed between the two upper front teeth. Besides the visible gap, there are no symptoms specific to diastema. However, if the diastema is due to underlying issues such as gum disease, there might be symptoms associated with those conditions, like swollen gums, bad breath, or tooth mobility.
What Causes Diastema?
There are several factors and conditions that can contribute to the development of diastema:
- Genetic Factors: Sometimes, diastema can run in families, suggesting a genetic component. It may simply be a trait that is passed down from one generation to the next.
- Mismatch Between Jaw and Teeth Size: Diastema can occur when there’s a discrepancy between the size of the jawbones and the size of the teeth, which can create extra space for teeth or overcrowding.
- Habits and Behaviors: Certain habits such as thumb sucking, tongue thrusting, or using a pacifier beyond early childhood can lead to the development of diastema. These habits can put pressure on the front teeth, causing them to move apart over time.
- Gum Disease: Advanced gum disease can result in the loss of bone that supports the teeth, which can cause gaps to develop between teeth.
- Oversized Labial Frenum: The labial frenum is the tissue that extends from the inside of the upper lip to the gum just above the upper front teeth. If this tissue is exceptionally large, it can block the space between the teeth, leading to diastema.
- Tooth Loss or Differences in Tooth Size: Losing a tooth or having teeth that are too small can create spaces between teeth.
- Impacted or Extra Teeth: The presence of extra teeth or teeth that have not erupted properly can cause spacing issues, including diastema.
Understanding the cause of diastema is important in determining whether treatment is necessary and, if so, what kind of treatment will be most effective.
How is Diastema Diagnosed?
Diagnosing diastema is generally a straightforward process. During a regular dental check-up, a dentist can easily identify the presence of diastema by visually inspecting the teeth. However, determining the underlying cause of diastema may require a more comprehensive evaluation:
- Medical History: The dentist may ask about family history regarding diastema and dental issues, as well as any habits like thumb sucking.
- Dental Examination: A thorough examination of the teeth, gums, and jaw is carried out to check for any anomalies such as an oversized labial frenum, missing teeth, or signs of gum disease.
- Dental X-rays: In some cases, dental X-rays might be taken to assess the bone structure and to evaluate the position and size of the teeth.
Based on the findings, the dentist will discuss the options for managing or treating diastema if necessary.
Cosmetic Treatments for Diastema
There are several cosmetic treatments available for closing a diastema, particularly if it is an aesthetic concern:
- Dental Bonding: This involves applying a tooth-colored resin material to the teeth and using a special light to bond the material to the teeth. Dental bonding can be used to close the gap between the teeth.
- Veneers or Crowns: These are tooth-colored shells or caps that are placed over the tooth’s surface to improve appearance and shape. They can be used to close gaps between teeth.
- Orthodontics (Braces or Clear Aligners): Braces or clear aligners like Invisalign can be used to move the teeth and close the gap over time. This option might be more suitable for larger gaps or when there are other alignment issues.
- Dental Implants or Bridges: If the diastema is due to missing teeth, dental implants or bridges can be used to replace the missing teeth and close the gap.
Gum Disease Treatments for Diastema
If diastema is caused by gum disease, treating the gum disease is imperative not only to manage the diastema but also to prevent further dental issues.
Gum disease treatments include:
- Scaling and Root Planing: This is a deep cleaning procedure where tartar and plaque are removed from above and below the gum line, and rough spots on the tooth root are made smooth to remove bacteria and provide a clean surface for the gums to reattach to the teeth.
- Medications: In some cases, antibiotics or other medications might be prescribed to control the bacterial infection.
- Surgical Treatments: For advanced gum disease, surgical treatments such as flap surgery or bone and tissue grafts may be necessary.
- Maintenance and Dental Hygiene Education: Patients will be educated on the importance of regular dental hygiene including proper brushing and flossing to maintain gum health.
In cases where diastema is caused by gum disease, it is important to address the gum disease first. Once the gum disease is under control, the dentist can then evaluate the diastema and discuss options for closing the gap if necessary.
Can I Prevent Diastema?
Some cases of diastema, particularly those that are genetic in nature, may not be preventable.
However, there are steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of developing diastema or prevent it from worsening:
- Early Intervention: For children, addressing habits such as thumb sucking or tongue thrusting early on can help in preventing diastema.
- Maintaining Good Oral Hygiene: Regular brushing and flossing can help in preventing gum disease, which is one of the causes of diastema.
- Regular Dental Check-ups: Regular visits to the dentist can help in the early detection and management of issues that can lead to diastema.
- Wearing a Nightguard: If teeth grinding (bruxism) is a problem, wearing a nightguard can help prevent the shifting of teeth that can cause diastema.
What Can I Expect If I Have Diastema?
If you have diastema, the experience and impact can vary depending on the cause and size of the gap. For some individuals, diastema might not cause any issues aside from aesthetic concerns. For others, especially if it’s due to underlying issues like gum disease, it can have implications on oral health. Treatment options range from cosmetic procedures to orthodontic treatment, depending on the underlying cause and the individual’s preference.
Does Diastema Increase with Age?
Diastema does not necessarily increase with age, but certain factors associated with aging, such as the loss of teeth or gum recession due to gum disease, can lead to the development or worsening of diastema in some individuals. Regular dental care and good oral hygiene practices are essential in preventing these age-related dental issues.
When Should I See My Dentist?
It’s advisable to see a dentist if you are concerned about the appearance of your diastema or if you notice any changes in the spacing of your teeth. Additionally, if the diastema is accompanied by other symptoms such as pain, gum swelling, or issues with biting and chewing, it is important to seek dental advice.
Diastema refers to a space or gap between two teeth and can be caused by various factors, including genetic predisposition, habits, or underlying dental issues. While diastema in itself might not always be a health concern, it’s important to understand the underlying cause. Regular dental check-ups are vital for early detection and management. Treatments are available for those who wish to close the gap, ranging from cosmetic procedures to more extensive orthodontic treatments. Maintaining good oral hygiene and seeking timely dental care are key to managing and preventing diastema.
This article is complete and was published on July 8, 2023, and last updated on August 25, 2023.