What is it?

A diastema is a space or gap between two teeth. It appears most often between the two upper front teeth. However, gaps can occur between any two teeth.

A mismatch between the size of the jaw bones and the size of the teeth can cause either extra space between teeth or crowding of teeth. If the teeth are too small for the jaw bone, spaces between the teeth will occur. If the teeth are too big for the jaw, teeth will be crowded.

Spaces develop for a few other reasons as well.  Sometimes some teeth are missing or undersized. This happens most often with the upper lateral incisors (the teeth next to the two upper front teeth).

A diastema also can be caused by an oversized labial frenum. The labial frenum is the piece of tissue that normally extends from the inside of your upper lip to the gum just above your two upper front teeth. In some situations, the labial frenum continues to grow and passes between the two front teeth. If this happens, it blocks the natural closing of the space between these teeth.

Children may have temporary gaps as their baby teeth fall out. Most of these spaces close as the permanent teeth reach their final positions.

Sometimes, a diastema is part of a set of problems that require orthodontic treatment. In other cases, a diastema is the only problem. However, some people may seek treatment for reasons of appearance.

  • Some people get braces, which move the teeth together. Often, no matter where the diastema is, you must wear a full set of braces – on both your upper and lower teeth. That’s because moving any teeth affects your entire mouth.
  • If your lateral incisors are too small, your dentist may suggest widening them using crowns, veneers or bonding.
  • If you have a space because you are missing teeth, you might need more extensive dental repair. This might include dental implants, a bridge, or a partial denture.
  • If a large labial frenum is causing the gap, the frenum can be reduced through surgery called a frenectomy. If a frenectomy is done in a younger child, the space may close on its own. If it is done in an older child or an adult, the space may need to be closed with braces.

What are the symptoms of Diastema?

A diastema does not cause symptoms.

What are the causes of Diastema?

In some people, a diastema is caused partly by lateral incisors (the teeth next to the two front center teeth) that are undersized. If this is the case, consult with your dentist to determine whether these teeth should be made wider using crowns, veneers or bonding.

A diastema also can be caused by an overly large frenum the piece of gum tissue above and between your two front teeth. If your frenum is too thick, it can impede the normal development of teeth and the natural closing of the space between the two front teeth. Orthodontic treatment may not be effective unless the tissue is removed in a procedure called a frenectomy.

Some people have permanent teeth that may have never developed, known as congenitally missing teeth. If the lateral incisors never develop, the extra space can allow the front teeth to move apart and create a diastema. If you are missing these teeth, there are several options for replacing teeth eventually, including implants, bridgework and orthodontic treatment that moves the canine teeth (eye teeth) into the positions where the lateral incisors should be. Which treatment is right for you depends on many factors, and you should discuss the options with your orthodontist.

What is the Diagnosis

You may notice a space when brushing or flossing. Your dentist can see spaces during an examination.

How long will it last?

Once the adult teeth are in place, any spaces will tend to remain throughout life

How do you prevent Diastema?

Not all spaces can be prevented. The best way to reduce the chance of a diastema is to take good care of the primary (baby) teeth. The baby teeth hold the spaces for the permanent teeth. If they are lost too early, the adult teeth may not enter the mouth in the correct places.

What is the treatment?

Sometimes, a diastema is part of a set of problems that require orthodontic treatment. In other cases, a diastema is the only problem. However, some people may seek treatment for reasons of appearance.

Treatment for a diastema starts with a consultation with an orthodontist, who will do an evaluation and determine if treatment should proceed. If you are ready for treatment, the orthodontist will take impressions of your teeth to make study casts, do a detailed clinical exam, take a series of facial and dental pictures, and take a full series of radiographs (X-rays), including panoramic and side head views.

Orthodontic treatment for a diastema that is the only orthodontic problem can consist of one or more of these options:

  • Full Braces
  • Full Braces on only the upper teeth
  • Partial Braces on only some of the upper teeth
  • A removable appliance similar to a retainer

Treatment depends on many factors, including your age, dental development and facial/skeletal relations. Facial / skeletal issues that will be taken into consideration include whether you have a long or short, narrow or wide face and how symmetrical your face is. Discuss the options with your orthodontist to find out which is best for you.

Some people get braces, which move the teeth together. Often, no matter where the diastema is, you must wear a full set of braces on both your upper and lower teeth. That’s because moving any teeth affects your entire mouth.

If your lateral incisors are too small, your dentist may suggest widening them using crowns, veneers or bonding.

If you have a space because you are missing teeth, you might need more extensive dental repair. This might include dental implants, a bridge, or a partial denture.

If a large labial frenum is causing the gap, the frenum can be reduced through surgery called a frenectomy. If a frenectomy is done in a younger child, the space may close on its own. If it is done in an older child or an adult, the space may need to be closed with braces.

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When do I need professional help?

If you have a space between your teeth or see one in your child’s mouth, talk with your dentist or orthodontist, a specialist in treatment with braces. The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that children visit an orthodontist by age 7, although treatment (if needed) may not begin right away.

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What is the prognosis?

If a diastema is closed through orthodontics or dental repair, the space will tend to stay closed. However, to help prevent the space from coming back, wear your retainers as directed by your orthodontist. Visit your dentist regularly to make sure your dental work is in good repair.

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