What to Know About Tooth Gaps
Did you know that people have unique perspectives on what makes a smile beautiful? When it comes to gaps between the teeth, not everyone considers them to be a cosmetic problem. Some people, including celebrities, find tooth gaps attractive and choose not to correct them.
In this article, we will explain everything you need to know about tooth gaps.
What are Tooth Gaps?
Most people can conjure up a picture of what tooth gaps are. Just to clarify exactly what we are talking about, we mean small spaces between the teeth. It can be a single space between the two upper front teeth or spaces between every tooth in the mouth.
These spaces are not always visible, either. Some people have tiny gaps between the teeth that do not present a cosmetic problem, but they can cause issues with dental health.
What Causes Tooth Gaps?
Tooth gaps can have a variety of causes, and they are quite different! It is important to understand the underlying cause of the spaces between your teeth so that you can have successful treatment. You can “fix” tooth gaps, but if you don’t address the underlying cause, they are likely to come right back.
Tooth Size vs. Jaw Size
In a mouth with perfect tooth alignment, the size of the teeth and the size of the jaw match up to allow the teeth to all touch side-to-side without gaps or crowding. Unfortunately, this perfect tooth/jaw size match is rare, so most people need some form of orthodontic treatment to align the teeth properly within the jawbone. When it comes to gaps between the teeth, the problem can lie with the size of the teeth or the size of the jaw.
Tooth gaps can develop as the result of a normal sized jawbone and teeth that are too small. A person can have gaps between the teeth if the teeth are normal in size, but the jawbone is too large.
Some people develop tooth gaps because they clench or grind their teeth heavily during sleep. Clenching and grinding both typically put forces on the teeth in a forward direction. Imagine the lower front teeth pushing on the upper front teeth from behind, forcing them outward toward the lip.
This pressure can cause the upper front teeth to spread outward and apart from one another, thus leading to small spaces between them.
Another potential cause of tooth gaps, particularly in older adults, is advanced gum disease. As gum disease worsens and destroys the jawbone and gums surrounding the teeth, the teeth can slowly shift and separate from one another.
This type of tooth gaps usually starts as small “black triangles” between the teeth, even while the teeth are still touching. These black triangles indicate a loss of the papillae, the part of gum tissue that extends up between the teeth.
Are Tooth Gaps Bad for Your Dental Health?
They can be.
Not all tooth gaps are damaging. Some people have spaces between the teeth that are, what we call, “self-cleansing”. This means that the spaces are large enough that food will not become lodged, but instead will easily move between the teeth.
Most small gaps do collect food during chewing. Food impaction can lead to both cavities on the teeth and gum disease. The food, when left in place, becomes fuel for cavity-causing bacteria and easily creates cavities between the teeth.
Food impaction also damages the gum tissues between the teeth. It causes inflammation (gingivitis), and if untreated, leads to full-blown periodontal disease.
How Can I Close Tooth Gaps?
In order to close spaces between the teeth, you have to move the teeth. Tooth movement is the goal of orthodontic treatment. Successful orthodontic treatment moves the teeth within the surrounding jawbone slowly, providing time for the restructuring of the bone in the process. There are two generally accepted methods of orthodontic treatment.
Using brackets affixed to the teeth and wires connecting them, orthodontists can move the teeth in various ways to meet the goals for the final tooth positioning. Traditional braces accomplish tooth movement by exerting a pulling force on the teeth.
Clear Aligners (Invisalign)
A popular way to realign the teeth is through the use of clear aligners. At Premier Dental of Ohio, we are proud to offer Invisalign aligner therapy to our patients in need of orthodontic movement. Using a series of clear aligners that fit intimately over the teeth, we can gradually reposition the teeth to the prescribed position in the dental arch.
Clear aligners can successfully close small gaps between the teeth as well as traditional braces can.
I Had Tooth Gaps Closed, but They are Back Already!
Unfortunately, our teeth have a “memory”, and they tend to move back to their original position if we do not hold them in the new position. That is the purpose of retainers. All tooth movement needs retention.
If you have already corrected your tooth gaps and are experiencing a re-opening, you may be able to close them again by wearing your original retainers. If you do not have original retainers, or your original retainers do not fit, you should see your dentist to discuss options for closing the spaces with clear aligners.
What about Do-It-Yourself Treatments to Close Tooth Gaps?
If you search “how to close tooth gaps”, you will inevitably see a social media post or blog claiming that you can do it yourself at home. This DIY method of moving teeth without a dentist’s supervision is not only unwise; it is dangerous!
Many people have damaged teeth and gums by attempting to place small rubber bands around gapped teeth to draw them together. This method places too much pressure at one time on the teeth and can destroy the surrounding jawbone. The rubber bands also have a tendency to drift upward underneath the gum tissues, becoming irretrievable. If you cannot reach these bands under the gums, bone loss will quickly progress. You could even lose your two front teeth!
Any efforts toward moving the teeth at home without the supervision of a dentist are not worth the risks of causing permanent damage to your teeth, gums, and bone.
More Questions about Tooth Gaps?
Call your nearest Premier Dental of Ohio location today to schedule a consultation with one of our dental experts. We can assess your specific situation and recommend treatment options to help you address teeth gaps and achieve the smile of your dreams.