If you don’t like that space between your teeth, your dentist has ways to reduce the size or close it.

Girl with gap between front teeth

Spaces between your teeth are one of the most common cosmetic concerns as these can affect your smile and even the function of your teeth.

If you have a gap between your teeth, it’s called a “diastema”. This can occur anywhere in the mouth and can be caused by a number of factors, from developmental to even behavioural. Gaps in the front teeth along the smile zone are typically fixed by a dentist for aesthetic reasons. Spaces in the back teeth however, can interfere with function.

What causes dental gaps

Small teeth Gaps can occur between teeth that are small in proportion to jaw size. Some teeth can even develop an irregular shape. For example, lateral incisors can be peg-shaped or tiny, pointy and cone-shaped.

* Habit Thumb-sucking can push the front teeth forward, resulting in unsightly gaps.

* Missing teeth These can result in a gummy gap, which may not be aesthetically pleasing if it is in the smile zone.

Large frenum The frenum is a tough fold of gum attachment with enclosed muscle tissue. A high frenum can prevent two teeth from coming together.

* Gum disease As bone levels decline as a result of periodontal disease, teeth can migrate and space out. Timely intervention is crucial in halting the progress of gum disease.

Gaps can occur between teeth that are small in proportion to jaw size. Some teeth can even develop an irregular shape.”

Treatment options

Many simple, effective and excellent options can close gaps between teeth. These include:

1. Bonding Tooth-coloured dental composite material is added carefully to the teeth flanking the gap, so that the unsightly spaces appear smaller or disappear altogether. The dentist performs this technique quickly, and it’s painless and hardly requires any trimming of the natural tooth enamel.

2. Porcelain veneers or crowns These ceramic shells that fit over the existing teeth, resulting in a more regular row of teeth, so that the smile is improved. This option usually requires some tooth enamel to be removed and more than one visit to the dentist.

3. Braces and clear aligners Closing gaps using orthodontic movement of teeth is an excellent way to treat tooth gaps. However, this treatment should be performed by a qualified dentist and may take more time.

Regular dental visits for cleaning and good oral hygiene practices are the mainstay for treating periodontal issues ― do this before considering any other corrective treatment."

4. Frenectomy An oral surgeon can perform a simple surgery to trim off a tough frenum. This is commonly done in conjunction with orthodontic treatment to close a stubborn gap between the front incisors.

5. Gum treatment Regular dental visits for cleaning and good oral hygiene practices are the mainstay for treating periodontal issues ― do this before considering any other corrective treatment.

6. Implants or bridges Dental implants or bridging the adjacent teeth can replace missing teeth, so that the teeth’s chewing function is improved and also leads to a more aesthetically pleasing smile.

Remember that whatever your choice of treatment, after-care is just as important. Regular cleaning and maintenance can help you keep a beautiful smile for years.

Dr Yeo Siang Khin practises at Thomson Dental Centre.

This article first appeared in the February/March 2018 issue of Thomson Medical’s Celebrating Life magazine.

Photos: iStock

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