If you have a gap between two of your teeth—especially between your two front teeth—you may be self-conscious about your appearance. A large gap may even keep you from smiling or speaking with confidence.
Known as a diastema, a space between the teeth can appear if your teeth are too small or narrow for your jaw or if they're misaligned when they emerge during childhood. Diastemas can also form due to thumb-sucking and late-stage gum disease. Regardless of the cause, you don't have to go on living with your gap-toothed smile. There are several methods your dentist can use to close the gap.
If your teeth are properly sized but are simply misaligned in your jaw, your dentist will likely recommend braces. Traditional braces slowly shift the teeth into position. Since your moving one tooth affects the position of the rest of the teeth in your mouth, you'll typically need to wear a full set of braces even if only two teeth are misaligned.
Braces can cause mild discomfort, but it can typically be controlled with over-the-counter pain relievers. Most people must wear braces for between 18 and 24 months, but if your teeth are only slightly misaligned, you may not need to wear them quite this long.
If the gap between your teeth formed due to late-stage periodontal disease that loosened your teeth and allowed them to shift, you must have the periodontal disease treated before the gap can be closed. Treatments may include gum grafts, a deep-cleaning method known as root scaling, and use of antibiotics. Once your gums are healthy again, your dentist can use braces to push your teeth back into their original positions, closing the gap.
If your teeth are properly placed in your jaw but are too narrow or too small, your dentist may recommend a procedure called dental bonding to make them appear larger, essentially closing the gap between them. Dental bonding is quite straight forward and painless. The process is similar to having a cavity filled and can be completed in one office visit.
When you have your teeth bonded, your dentist will begin by using a special file to roughen up the edges of your teeth. Then, he or she will apply a tooth-colored resin to the surface of the tooth, molding it into shape to close the gap and widen your tooth. After a special UV light is used to cure the resin, it is filed down and shaped to have a natural appearance.
The materials used for dental bonding are porous and do stain, so you'll want to avoid drinking coffee and red wine regularly. You may need to have the resin replaced or repaired in the future if it chips, which becomes more likely with age.
If there's not only a gap between your front teeth but also chips, discoloration, or irregularly shaping, you may wish to have your teeth covered with veneers. These are thin layers of porcelain that are fitted over the front of your teeth to camouflage the teeth behind them.
Unlike the materials used for dental bonding, veneers are stain-resistant. They can be made to look natural or brighter white, depending on your preference. Their primary downfall is that they're generally more expensive than dental bonding. Plus, since a layer of enamel has to be removed to put veneers into place, you must keep them on for life after you commit to them.
Dental veneers are usually applied across two appointments. In the first appointment, your teeth are prepared and a mold is made. In the second appointment, the specially made veneers are cemented to your teeth.
If you have a gap between two of your teeth, don't continue to hide your smile. Get in touch with Kenneth M. Schweizer, DDA, PA to discuss your diastema and your personal treatment options.