The term diastema simply describes the area of extra space or gap between two or more teeth. It is usually harmless and, sometimes, is barely noticeable. They are mostly seen as a gap between the two front teeth of the upper jaw area.
Diastemas mainly occur in children as a result of primary teeth falling out, and in most cases, these spaces close when the permanent teeth erupt. The gap can be caused by several other factors as well, such as tooth size differences, presence of an oversized labial frenum (a fold of tissue between the inside of the upper lip and gum above the upper front teeth), missing teeth, or oral alignment issues like an overjet or protrusion of the teeth.
5 common causes of diastema
The 5 common causes of diastema are described below:
- Size, shape, and position of the teeth: Diastema often is a part of the normal development of children’s teeth. It is seen in children between six and eight years of age and closes by the time their upper canine teeth form. However, the unusual size of the teeth, shape, or position in relation to the child’s jawbone may lead to gaps between the teeth.
- Gum disease: Infections can cause periodontitis (gum disease). Inflammation can lead to damage of the tissues and bone that support teeth, causing teeth to loosen up and gaps to form.
- Obstruction of the mouth: The presence of extra (supernumerary) teeth or persistent baby teeth that don’t fall out can cause gaps to form between them. Other conditions such as a large frenum or cyst can predispose to diastema.
- Bad Habits: Regular biting of the lower lip puts pressure on the front teeth and causes them to push outward. Also, thumb sucking and tongue thrusting can put pressure on the front teeth and push them forward. In adults, diastema can develop due to impropriety with a tongue piercing or stud between the upper front teeth.
- Tongue placement: The main cause of diastema in the lower front teeth is the placement of the tongue in the lower jaw, pressing the lower teeth too far forward in the mouth. Additionally, incorrect swallowing reflexes can cause diastema, which occurs when the tongue presses against the backs of the upper front teeth when swallowing.
How is diastema corrected?
The treatment plan for diastema depends on the age and nature of the gap. For most children, dentists consider treatment unnecessary because the gap normally closes on its own as the children grow. However, diastema closure procedures are performed for cosmetic reasons and if there is a persistent large gap.
Dentists may utilize the following treatment options for diastema:
- Braces: Attaching braces to the gapped teeth is a common treatment of diastema. The braces put pressure on the teeth over time and gradually close the gap between them and move them into the right position. They are removed once the tooth is aligned right.
- Prostheses: Prostheses are used when diastema is caused by missing teeth. Here, a fixed or removable implant or crown is used to help close the gap and is done after orthodontic treatment.
- Composite resin: It is a long-lasting, minimally invasive procedure that is used to fill the gap between the teeth.
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