Closing the Gap- Something to Smile About

BUFFALO GROVE, ILLINOIS-- We’re noticing the gap-toothed smile gaining steam on runways and in Hollywood these days.

[caption id="attachment_8435" align="alignright" width="217" caption="Vanessa Paradis"][/caption]

From models of yesteryear such as Lauren Hutton to more popular faces of today including Ruth Crilly, Lara Stone and Georgia May Jagger, trend-makers seem to be trying to make midline diastema- as it’s known in the orthodontic field- a desirable physical characteristic.

When we saw Vanessa Paradis on the cover of a Chanel catalog recently, we decided enough is enough- it’s time to talk about this type of malocclusion and make sure that our patients understand it can be corrected if desired.

Let’s make one thing very clear: if you are a confident man or woman who has a midline diastema and you love your smile, you shouldn’t do a thing to change it. But if a midline diastema has you feeling self-conscious and prevents you from wanting to show your teeth when smiling, there is a remedy for that.

Causes of Teeth Spacing

Although the models and actresses we mentioned above all have midline diastema, spaces can occur between any of the teeth. They also have a variety of causes:

  • Disparity between jaw bone size and teeth size
  • Missing teeth, either congenitally or due to decay or trauma
  • An enlarged labial frenum (that piece of tissue extending from inside the upper lip to the gum, just above the front teeth)
  • Poor oral habits such as thumb sucking
  • Incorrect swallowing patterns in which the tongue thrusts against the front teeth when swallowing
  • Periodontal disease

Treatment Options

We have treated hundreds of patients with diastema through the years at our Buffalo Grove orthodontics practice, and braces are an effective, noninvasive method of correcting the malocclusion.

Braces apply proper force to move the teeth together. For patients with congenitally missing teeth or teeth that are missing because of trauma or decay, a dental implant may be needed to fill the space. When this treatment path is chosen for children, the implant cannot be placed until the child has stopped growing. However, we can work closely with your dentist, who can fit you with an appliance called a Maryland Bridge, which will hold the space until it is time for the implant.

In some cases, a surgical procedure is necessary prior to orthodontic treatment. Gaps caused by a larger-than-normal labial frenum require the frenum to be reduced. When this procedure- called a frenectomy- is performed on a child, midline diastema sometimes will close on its own afterward. Braces may be needed following the procedure in older children and adults.

Other methods of correcting a space between teeth fall into the cosmetic dentistry realm and include the use of porcelain crowns or veneers to widen the teeth and fill the space. We don’t recommend this for children.

If you’re an adult and you can be patient, orthodontic methods will correct the problem without altering the structure of your teeth. We don’t like to see patients voluntarily reduce healthy tooth structure just for the sake of a cosmetic improvement when other, noninvasive methods are available.

Some adults ask about veneers when they fear they will have to wear conventional metal “train track” braces, but we have lots of aesthetic orthodontic options available including ceramic brackets and Invisalign.

Call us today if you want to learn available options for improving your smile with orthodontic treatment.