Causes of Diastema

A diastema, or gap between the teeth, is a common condition that can appear in children and adults.  Gaps can occur anywhere in the mouth but are most noticeable when they are between the upper front teeth.  While the condition is generally not harmful and doesn’t typically require treatment for medical reasons, some patients may not like the appearance and seek cosmetic procedures to close the gap.  There are several causes for diastemas which we will investigate in this article.

Causes of Diastemas

Undersized or Missing Teeth:  Often the result of a person’s genetics, undersized teeth can lead to the development of a diastema.  This typically involves the upper lateral incisors (the teeth on either side of the two upper front teeth) being smaller than the surrounding teeth.  The size of the teeth, in relation to a person’s jawbone, also can lead to diastemas if the teeth are too small for the area.  Gaps are unavoidable and will naturally result when a tooth or teeth are missing.  Trauma, gum disease, and tooth decay are just a few of the ways people lose teeth that will lead to a diastema. 

Oversized Labial Frenum:  This tissue, located in the front of the mouth, extends from inside the upper lip to the gums above the upper front teeth and from the bottom lip to below the lower front teeth and is known as the labial frenum.  When this tissue is excessively large, the way the teeth grown in are altered and can lead to the formation of a gap.

Gum Disease:  When teeth show signs of migration, it is often an indicator of advanced gum disease.  Inflammation results from the gum disease and can lead to the bone that supports the teeth becoming damaged.  Once the bone is damaged and can no longer support the teeth, it is common for teeth to loosen or fall out creating gaps.

Incorrect Swallowing Reflex:  When done correctly, the natural swallowing reflex involves pressing the tongue against the roof of the mouth.  Other people though, may push the tongue against the front teeth when swallowing.  The repeated pressure against the front teeth can cause the teeth to be pushed forward over time and lead to a gap forming.

Habits:  Certain habits can also put undue pressure on the front teeth causing them to be pushed forward and lead to diastemas.  While most frequent with children, thumb sucking is one such habit that can create gaps between the front teeth as a result from the sucking pressure placed on the teeth.  Lip sucking, tongue thrusting, and similar habits, can also lead to the development of diastemas.

Loss of Primary Teeth:  When a child’s primary teeth (baby teeth) fall out, they may develop a temporary diastema.  These diastemas are most frequent when only the central incisors (two flat front teeth of the upper jaw) of a child have erupted.  These gaps typically close when the permanent teeth (adult teeth) come in and because dentists consider this to be a normal developmental process, treatment is generally not needed or advisable.

More on Diastema : Diastema & Children