A gap between two teeth is known as a diastema. Gappy teeth are really common in children but are generally not something to be worried about since the spaces often disappear as adult teeth erupt.
If you have a diastema or several gaps between your teeth after all of your adult teeth have come through, you may want to explore different malocclusion treatments for diastema closure. Or, you might not – some people choose to keep their diastema, especially between the two front teeth. It's actually believed to bring wealth, fertility or luck in certain cultures.
Here we’ll go through everything you need to know, such as:
- The definition of a diastema
- What causes a diastema
- Different treatment options
- Answers to some other common questions
We hope this helps you decide the best course of action for the gaps between your or your child's teeth.
Table of contents
- 1 Diastema definition
- 2 What causes gaps in front teeth?
- 3 How to close gaps in teeth
- 4 How much does a diastema closure cost?
- 5 FAQs
- 6 Conclusion
The simple definition of a diastema is a gap between two teeth. It's most noticeable with gappy front teeth, but spaces can occur anywhere in the mouth. A gap in the lower teeth is called a mandibular diastema whereas a gap in the front two teeth is called a midline or median diastema.
According to this report in the Journal of the American Dental Association, between 1.6% and 25.4% of people have a diastema. That's quite a gap! Although the findings are presented in a fairly technical way, it's worth scrolling through if you want to see some pictures of diastema closure before and after.
Gaps in baby teeth are pretty normal because at this stage the jaw is still growing and the teeth developing. As children grow up, lose their milk teeth, and get their adult teeth, any spaces often close naturally. If gaps are left then you can seek advice from a dentist.
People with spaces between their teeth need to take extra care with their oral health. A water flosser can help, making it easier to clean gaps between teeth.
What causes gaps in front teeth?
There are quite a few different diastema causes. The main one is a mismatch in the size of teeth vs jaw size. If your jaw is too big or teeth are too small then they won’t align properly because there is too much space in the mouth.
Gaps in front teeth can also be caused by extra tissue growing above the teeth. The bit of skin between your lip and top front teeth is called your frenum and this can overgrow sometimes. If it does grow too much it can force a diastema between your two upper front teeth.
Other things that cause a diastema are generally based on behaviour, such as:
- Thumb sucking
- Tongue thrusting
- Poor dental hygiene leading to gum disease
Thumb sucking will normally cause a midline diastema because this is where the thumb exerts pressure. Tongue thrusting can cause a mandibular diastema if the tongue is pushing against the lower teeth when swallowing. Both of these habits can be corrected in childhood to prevent long term issues.
If you suffer from periodontitis (severe gum disease), you could end up losing teeth. The infection can also lead to bone loss in your jaw which can make your teeth move and create gaps.
What is a peg lateral?
Sometimes the tooth called the second incisor – that’s the one next to the very front two teeth – doesn’t develop properly. This is known as a peg lateral. When this happens, the tooth is quite small and has a pointy shape. Because it is smaller than it should be, there might be gaps either side.
How to close gaps in teeth
Closing gaps in teeth isn’t normally a complicated process, provided your case isn’t too extreme. There are a range of options to choose from, which you can read about below. Your dentist will be able to talk you through which treatment is best for the gaps in your teeth, since every case is different.
Closing gaps in teeth with braces
Braces can be used to adjust the position of diastema teeth and close gaps in the mouth. Larger gaps usually require treatment with braces, whereas smaller gaps can be closed in other ways – more on these in a moment.
You’ll need to wait until all adult teeth have erupted before braces for a diastema can be considered. This is because a child’s jaw can grow at a different rate to their teeth, and the mix of milk teeth and adult teeth can cause natural spacing between teeth. Once everything has developed, if any problems still persist then your dentist will discuss different braces options.
In this time lapse video you can watch the progress made by one patient with metal braces to close the gap in his front teeth:
Invisalign for a diastema
If you want to close gaps in teeth without metal braces, invisible braces like Invisalign could be a good choice. These clear aligners are very hard to notice, unlike conventional braces, but they are still an effective treatment for mild and moderate cases of teeth spacing. They also have the added convenience of being removable.
Do you want to check whether you might be a suitable candidate for diastema treatment with invisible braces? Invisalign's Smile Assessment tool can give you an answer in just two minutes – and it's free to use. Click below to get started:
If you'd prefer to discuss your treatment options in person, search for Invisalign dentists in your area and book your first appointment online.
How can I get rid of gaps in teeth without braces?
Braces aren’t the only solution for filling gaps in teeth. The two other options that may be offered are veneers and composite bonding. These are best for closing just one or two gaps; if several of your teeth are over-spaced then braces may be a better option.
Your dentist will discuss which treatment is most suitable for you, but here we’ll go through the pros and cons of each to help you understand your options.
A porcelain veneer is a thin cover that fits on top of your natural teeth to alter the shape and/or colour. Fixing a small diastema with veneers is quite straightforward, but this treatment is only suitable for adults.
When filling gaps between teeth using veneers, the dentist simply makes the veneers slightly wider than the original teeth. When they are fitted, they meet in the middle and hide the gap.
Porcelain veneers usually require two dental visits; one to prepare the teeth and take measurements for the veneers, and another to fit them once they have been made in a lab. You can read more about veneers here.
Veneers can help cover up small gaps in teeth naturally, but the results may not look so good if used for a large gap. You don’t want to look like you have oversized front teeth! Dentists are good judges of what will look natural; they look at different smiles every day, after all, so you should trust your dentist's opinion about the best option for you.
With diastema bonding, a composite material is applied directly to the teeth – no lab work required. The dentist builds up and shapes the composite to give the desired appearance. In the case of filling gaps in teeth, the composite is used to extend the tooth slightly to close the diastema.
Composite material can be used to cover the original tooth completely, in which case it's called a composite veneer. It's also a common treatment for chipped teeth. You can read more about the procedure for tooth bonding here.
In the following video, Awo talks about her treatment with bonding and filling in the gaps in her teeth without braces.
Veneers vs. bonding for a diastema
The table below summarises the two main options for treating a diastema without braces, including costs:
How much does a diastema closure cost?
Filling gaps between teeth is unlikely to be considered a medical necessity, and therefore the NHS usually doesn't cover diastema closure costs in the UK.
Children and adults with severe cases of teeth spacing, perhaps as a result of hypodontia, may be eligible for braces and then dentures or dental bridges to fill the gaps. The NHS also covers treatment for periodontitis, which may be the cause of gaps between teeth.
We've already covered the prices for veneers and bonding in the table above. Treating diastema teeth with braces costs between £1,500 and £5,500, depending on the type of braces used. For more information about the different kinds of braces you can read this guide. You may also want to explore your finance options for dental work.
Can a retainer fix gaps in teeth?
Retainers can be used for some orthodontic treatments, but are limited in what movement they can achieve and don't deliver quick results. The normal course of action would be to have fixed or removable braces to correct the diastema and then wear a retainer to maintain the new alignment.
Removable aligner braces are probably the closest option to a retainer, since they aren't fixed to your teeth like traditional braces. They are also far less noticeable than a metal wire retainer. You can quickly check your eligibility for removable aligner braces with Invisalign's free Smile Assessment, or book an appointment with your nearest Invisalign provider.
How can I fill gaps in teeth naturally?
It really depends what you mean by ‘naturally’. Although braces, veneers, and bonding may not be considered natural, they are safe and effective and deliver natural-looking results.
There is a trend for people to use elastic bands around their gappy teeth to try and pull them together. The American Association of Orthodontists reported on the trend in 2017, saying that it could be dangerous and cause more damage than it is trying to fix.
Your dentist will be able to talk you through all of your options if you’re worried about the appearance of your teeth.
Are gaps in baby teeth normal?
Put simply, yes, gaps are normal in baby teeth. At this age, the jaw is still developing and may progress faster than teeth growth. It's also natural for there to be gaps when the child has a mixture of baby and adult teeth.
If there are still gaps after their jaw has stopped developing and all the teeth have erupted, and they want to get their diastema fixed, then a dentist can advise which method would work best.
You can read more about the development of baby teeth here.
I have gaps in my teeth after braces, what can I do?
Braces are designed to correct the position of your teeth and give you a properly aligned smile. If you aren’t happy with the results of your treatment then refer back to the dentist or orthodontist who treated you. Do make sure that you wear your retainers as instructed after your treatment; this helps ensure your teeth stay in the correct position.
Does flossing create gaps in teeth?
There isn’t any reason that normal flossing would cause gaps to appear between your teeth. It is possible that you are catching your gums as you floss between your teeth and this could cause them to start to recede.
Our guide on how to floss properly will help you with the correct technique. If you are worried about your gums or gaps appearing in your teeth check that everything is ok with your dentist, it could be a sign of gum disease.
A diastema, or gap in your teeth, is generally not a medical concern in itself. But, there can be underlying reasons you have gaps in your front teeth, or between other teeth, so it’s best to see a dentist for a proper assessment.
Closing gaps is reasonably straightforward and traditional braces aren’t always necessary. Invisible braces like Invisalign, for instance, can often be used (don't forget you can check your eligibility here).
Don’t be too concerned if your baby has gaps in their teeth; this is quite common and may well fix itself when their adult teeth erupt.