Gapped teeth have come and gone in fashion since the time of Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales in the 1300s; some of the world’s most recognised recording artists, personalities, models and actors have sported unique smiles: from Lauren Hutton, Anna Paquin and Elvis Costello to Madonna and David Letterman.
While gapped smiles create a memorable feature, this unusual placement of teeth isn’t always the most practical for people.
What is the history of gapped teeth?
A gap between the two front teeth, also known as a diastema, has been linked through old wives’ tales across Europe and Africa for hundreds of years.
In Africa, diastema was thought to indicate wealth and fortune, and in Europe it was to indicate luck and – for women – lustful appetites.
Despite these tales, the real cause of diastema can be linked to:
- The disproportionate sizing of the jaw and teeth (i.e. under-average sized adult teeth)
- Hereditary traits
- Thumb sucking interrupting the natural eruption of teeth
- Unusual swallowing reflexes that thrust the tongue into the front teeth, and
- Exacerbated interference of the labial frenulum – the tissue that links the top lip to the gum
Is the appearance of a diastema unhealthy?
People with a diastema must follow a thorough oral hygiene regime to take care of their smile. These gaps are often traps for food particles, and provide the perfect shelter for plaque and tartar to develop.
In most cases, unless the diastema is linked to a more serious dental issue like malformations, many people don’t need orthodontic or cosmetic intervention.
Parents should not be concerned if their child’s milk teeth have slight gaps.
When should you get intervention?
A gap in the top front teeth may mean a number of things.
In one hand, its appearance can signal serious misalignment issues that need orthodontic work. On the other hand, these gaps can make eating, cleansing and clear speech difficult; food can become lodged, tartar can build up and lisps may develop.
The bottom line is that if you or your family member becomes self-conscious about eating, talking and smiling, then you should see your dentist for advice.
What can be done about gapped smiles?
Your dentist can make the best assessment on what sort of treatment will work for you.
Treatments can involve:
- Braces: Involving long-term treatment plans, braces are fixed to the teeth to straighten teeth and improve jaw and bite alignment. Some treatments may require patients to have their jaw surgically broken and widened, or teeth pulled, to create sufficient space.
- Invisalign: Invisalign is an alternative to braces, these clear, removable moulds shift teeth into new alignments week-to-week.
- Bands: Involving a removable rubber band, this option is slid only over the gapped teeth to focus on closing the space.
- Fillings: Using the same material used to fill cavities, this option is most suitable for patients that have a relatively small gap to fill. Colour-matched to suit the tooth’s natural colour, this is a fast and effective option for patients.
- Caps and veneers: For patients with poorly proportioned teeth, caps and veneers offer a simple solution to creating a symmetrical smile. The dentist will select the best shape and colour to match the patient’s existing teeth, and bond the final product to the teeth for an instant makeover.
When it comes down to being on-trend, a healthy smile is a fashionable smile.
You should be comfortable and confident with your smile, gap or no gap. If you have any concerns about the way your teeth look, then speaking to your dentist is the best first step to creating a brilliant, million-dollar smile.