If you have gaps between your teeth, you may feel self-conscious or even embarrassed about them, but did you know that gaps are relatively common? In one study, 25% of participants had a single-tooth gap.
The good news is that there are many treatment options for tooth gaps. But before we discuss these options, let’s look at the most common causes of gaps and why they’re a problem.
Why Your Teeth Have Gaps
The technical term for the gap between your teeth is diastema. If you have multiple gaps, then it’s called diastemata. While gaps can occur anywhere in the mouth, they’re most commonly seen between the upper front teeth.
Gaps can be caused by many things. The most common reason is having a jaw that’s too large for your teeth, or having teeth that are too small for your jaw.
Other factors that can cause gaps between teeth include:
- Gum disease
- Tongue thrusting
- Having a large tongue
- Not wearing your retainer after orthodontic treatment
Frenum issues can also cause tooth gaps. There’s a strip of tissue that connects the underside of your top lip to the gum tissue between your front teeth. This tissue is known as the maxillary labial frenum. When this band of tissue is too thick, it can lead to gaps between the front teeth.
Are Gaps in Your Teeth Really That Bad?
If you have gaps between your teeth, you may be wondering whether you have to close them. The answer is: it depends.
Many patients choose to treat their tooth gaps for aesthetic reasons. Improving the look of your smile can be a great confidence booster.
However, there are some patients who should close the gap between their teeth because it can cause dental and speech issues.
Untreated gaps can also cause your teeth to shift over time, which may eventually cause bite issues. A misaligned bite can lead to cracked or chipped teeth, which will require more treatment.
Having a gap between your teeth can also increase the risk of oral infection. It’s easy for food particles to become lodged in gaps, which may promote the growth and spread of bacteria as well as:
- Bad breath (halitosis)
- Gum sensitivity
In some cases, gaps between teeth can affect a person’s overall health. Bacteria can make their way into the bloodstream through your gums and teeth, where they can affect the rest of your body.
If the gaps are caused by gum disease, there’s an even greater cause for concern. Research has found that the bacteria found in gum disease can make their way through the body and cause inflammation in heart vessels and valves.
Typically, tooth gaps are not a dental emergency. However, it’s often worth treating the issue earlier rather than later to prevent complications down the road.
How Cosmetic Dentistry Can Close Tooth Gaps
Tooth gaps may be common, but that doesn’t mean that you have to live with them. We can perform a number of cosmetic dentistry procedures to close the gap between your teeth.
Some of the most effective treatment options for tooth gaps include:
Dental bonding is a relatively simple procedure that’s commonly used to close tooth gaps, repair chips and even help change the shape of teeth.
A tooth-coloured composite resin is attached to the teeth to change their size, shape or colour. The great thing about this treatment option is that it’s completely reversible.
Bonding is for patients with small gaps between their teeth. Bigger gaps may require a different treatment. We will discuss your options when you come in for an exam.
How it Works
Dental bonding is a simple procedure.
- We’ll find the right resin shade to match the natural colour of your teeth.
- We’ll roughen up the surface of the tooth to prepare it for bonding.
- A conditioned liquid is applied to help the bond material stick.
- We’ll apply the resin, and then mold and smooth it to your desired shape.
- We’ll use a special light to cure the resin and bond the material to your teeth.
- The bonding material will then be finely shaped and polished to make it look like your natural teeth.
Bonding isn’t a painful procedure. Most patients don’t even need anesthesia for the procedure.
Benefits of Dental Bonding
There are many advantages of dental bonding.
- Affordable: In fact, dental bonding is one of the least expensive procedures available in terms of cost in cosmetic dentistry.
- Minimally invasive: With bonding, we don’t have to remove enamel from your teeth. Once enamel is removed, it’s gone forever.
- Quick and convenient: Bonding can be completed in a single office visit.
Drawbacks of Dental Bonding
While there are many advantages of dental bonding, there are a few drawbacks that must also be considered.
- Bonding isn’t as durable as other restorative options.
- Bonding material can chip and stain over time.
For small gaps, bonding is often a great, affordable choice for restoring a smile.
Dental bridges are an effective treatment option if you have larger gaps between your teeth or missing teeth.
A dental bridge consists of a pontic (or false tooth) that’s supported by a crown on each side. The crowns fit over your natural teeth on both sides of the gap, and the bridge is cemented in place.
How it Works
Most patients will require at least two office visits for a dental bridge.
- The abutment teeth must first be prepared. We’ll start by reshaping these teeth to make room for the crown.
- Next, we’ll take impressions or digital scans of your teeth. The lab will use these to make your crowns and false teeth. You will be given a temporary bridge to protect your mouth until your permanent bridge is ready.
- On the next visit, we’ll remove the temporary bridge and place the permanent one.
The process is simple and straightforward. It may take a few days to get used to eating with your bridges, but most patients find that it’s much easier to eat and speak after they get their bridges.
The Benefits of Dental Bridges
There are many advantages of dental bridges.
- Improve your bite
- Make it easier to chew and speak
- Restore your smile
- Prevent teeth from shifting
- Last 10+ years
The Drawbacks of Dental Bridges
While beneficial, bridges do have some drawbacks:
- Bridges can fail if the surrounding teeth decay or the cement breaks down
- Bridges can cost more than other restorative procedures
For gaps caused by missing teeth, implants are the gold standard treatment. Implants replace the entire missing tooth - root and all.
With this procedure, the implant is actually implanted into the jaw to replace the root of the tooth, which also helps prevent bone loss.
Implants are for patients who still have enough bone in their jaws to support the implant and are otherwise healthy.
How it Works
Dental implants require multiple office visits and long stretches of time between each stage of treatment.
- The first step is to place the implant. The gum will be cut open to expose the bone, and a hole will be drilled into the bone to make space for the implant metal post.
- Once implanted, the jaw will need time to heal. The bone will grow into the implant to create a solid anchor. The process can take several months.
- The abutment tooth will be placed, which may require another surgical procedure. The abutment will need a few weeks to heal before the artificial tooth can be attached.
Benefits of Dental Implants
There are many advantages of dental implants, including:
- They’re long-lasting
- They help prevent bone loss
- They’re the most natural-looking tooth replacement option
Drawbacks of Dental Implants
Some potential drawbacks of implants are:
- They’re expensive
- They require multiple office visits and lengthy healing periods
- They’re not meant for treating small gaps - only for missing teeth
For larger tooth gaps and bite alignment issues, the standard treatment is braces. Orthodontic treatment will help reposition the teeth to close gaps, improve bite alignment and restore your smile.
Braces work by exerting constant pressure on the jaws and teeth, helping move the position of the teeth into their proper place.
How it Works
There are several stages to orthodontic treatment:
- Consultation, where we will take impressions of your teeth and evaluate your bite.
- Bonding stage, where you will be fitted with your braces. The brackets are placed and the wire is fitted. We’ll also discuss how to care for your teeth with braces.
- Every 6-8 weeks, you’ll come in to check your progress and make adjustments as needed.
- Debonding stage, where your braces will finally be removed.
- Retainer stage. You’ll need to wear a retainer to maintain your smile. We’ll make adjustments as needed.
The Benefits of Braces
Braces have many benefits, including:
- Ability to close larger gaps
- The improvement of bite issues
- More confidence in your smile
The Drawbacks of Braces
Braces, like other procedures, also have drawbacks:
- The process is lengthy
- Some patients may not like the look of braces
Veneers are a great alternative to bonding and can also help correct other issues, such as tooth stains, chips or cracks.
They’re highly durable and comfortable and look just like your natural teeth.
How it Works
Veneers typically require at least two office visits:
- We’ll start by grinding down your teeth and shaping them for the veneers.
- Next, we’ll take an impression of your teeth to create a mold, and send the impressions to a lab.
- Once your porcelain veneers arrive, you’ll come back for placement.
- Your veneers will be cemented into place, and last-minute adjustments will be made to ensure they feel comfortable and look great.
The Benefits of Veneers
Veneers offer many benefits:
- They look natural
- They’re durable and stain-resistant
- They last many years
- They can cover slightly larger gaps
The Drawbacks of Veneers
- We’ll have to remove some of your enamel before cementing them into place.
- Veneers can be costly.