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Many of us just can't smile when we are self-conscious about our teeth. Fixing gaps between the teeth can be very quick--with a skilled dentist--or very slow. There is more than one method your dentist can use.

A gap between two teeth most commonly results from the mismatch of the size of the teeth and the half-circle known as the dental arch. Lasting repair requires fixing the problem that causes the gap.

 

A gap between two adjacent teeth, known as diastema, often is the result of having Mama's teeth and Daddy's arches, as dentist Dr. Paul Chalifoux told an interviewer.

 

Inheriting tooth size from one parent and mouth size from another is the most common cause of gapped teeth.

In some cases, the problem is pressure from the labial frenum, a belt of tissue that connects the gums and the upper lip. The tissue pulls too hard and eventually the front teeth separate. When this is the source of the problem, there's an easy treatment. Just snip the extra tissue. Your teeth will still need help to return to their normal spacing, however.

And in other cases, the problem is a bad habit. Some people thrust the tongue upward when they swallow. This motion can generate enough pressure on the teeth to create a gap, especially when the bone has been damaged by gum disease. Whenever the bone is week, there is potential for the teeth to move.

So what can you do about gaps between your teeth?

The fast solution for a gap between your teeth is the application of a dental veneer. The dentist simply applies new enamel with a bonding agent directly to the affected teeth, and within minutes the gap disappears.

This treatment is OK if:

  • There is no area of tooth decay at the site of the repair.

  • The veneer is applied at a gentle angle so it will not tend to sheer off the teeth.

  • There is still a tiny gap between the teeth after the procedure so they can be flossed.

How well a veneer works depends on the dentist's or dental technician's skill. Touch up work may be necessary every few years.

Sometimes dentists treat gaps between teeth with braces. This is a long-term procedure that takes months or even years to work. During that time, it is necessary to wear a retainer to hold the braces in place.

And if problems with bruxism (grinding teeth) are not addressed, the retainer may move so much that the braces become useless.

The best way to close teeth may be for the dentist to use both veneers and braces. And if your smile is important to you and neither braces nor veneers works, ask about partial dentures with loop connections that gradually train your teeth to assume an aesthetically desirable position.

Or maybe you will decide that your gapped teeth is your calling card. At one time only the model Lauren Hutton was famous for the gap between her teeth, but now many leaders in fashion have chosen not to have their gapped teeth repaired.

  • Kalra A, Gowda ME, Verma K. Aesthetic rehabilitation with multiple loop connectors. Contemp Clin Dent. 2013 Jan. 4(1):112-5. doi: 10.4103/0976-237X.111632.
  • St. Louis K. Ask Well: Gap Toothed. New York Times. 12 September 2013.
  • Photo by steadyhealth.com