Mind the Gap: What is Diastema and When Should You Worry?

Everyone’s smile is unique, and that unique nature, the variety it provides, brings beauty to the world. Although sometimes it seems like there is a single ideal of beauty, a truly unique smile can capture our attention and redefine what a beautiful smile means. If you have a diastema, if your child has a diastema, or if you’ve seen a diastema, maybe you’ve had a moment where you experienced that flash of unique beauty. Or, maybe you feel that the look isn’t for you and you’re wondering about diastema treatment options. Either way, it’s time to talk diastemas—what they are, what causes them, what celebrities famously sport them, when you should worry about a diastema, and what options you have if you would like to close a diastema.

Diastema: A Definition

First off, what is diastema? Diastema is a big, technical term for a simple thing—it’s a gap between your teeth. Although it can, technically, refer to a space between any two teeth, it most commonly is used to talk about a gap between the two front teeth.

Diastema Causes

There are several possible reasons why you might develop a diastema, not all of which are under your control. Sometimes, a diastema is just the result of a mismatch between the size of your jaw and the size of your teeth. If you have small teeth compared to the size of your jaw, you’re more likely to have a diastema. If your mom had a diastema, and her mom had a diastema, and you have one too, genetics are the likely culprit. Having lots of gum at the front of your mouth can push your front teeth apart, too.

There are also some habits that can cause a diastema to develop. Thumb sucking is famously known to push apart teeth. Over time, you can also push your teeth apart by pushing on your front teeth with your tongue instead of placing it against the top of your mouth when you swallow. You may not suspect it, but poor brushing habits that contribute to gum disease can cause a diastema, too. If your gums become infected and inflamed enough, it’s possible for them to stop providing a solid foundation for your teeth. Then, they can shift out of their normal position.

Celebrities With Diastema

While there are plenty of people who choose to close their diastema, it’s usually not necessary to do so. If you need some celebrity inspiration to learn to love your slightly gapped smile, you’ll be happy to know that there are also plenty of famous faces rocking a distinctive diastema. Whether charming goofy actors like Andy Samberg, famous singers like Madonna, glamourous models/actresses like Lauren Hutton, or tough guys like Samuel L. Jackson speak to you, there’s a famous smile out there to help you build confidence in your own smile. Galleries of smiles are out there, like this one from Popsugar.

Will Diastema Hurt My Teeth?

Most of the time, a diastema is a benign condition and needs no treatment for medical reasons. There is one notable exception, however. If gum disease allows the teeth to shift and causes a diastema, it’s vital to treat the gum disease to prevent tooth loss. Symptoms of gum disease include red, swollen, inflamed gums; bleeding gums or pus discharge from the gums; gum recession; bad breath that doesn’t go away; and shifting, loose teeth. Gum disease is a serious illness that has been linked to an elevated risk of heart disease or stroke. If a diastema develops from underlying gum disease, you need to seek prompt treatment to avoid bigger problems down the road. The diastema itself is a cosmetic concern once the gum disease is taken care of, and you can choose to keep it or explore cosmetic treatments if you prefer.

Diastema Closure Options

There are options available if you prefer not to have a gap in your front teeth. An orthodontist can help close a gap with braces. If your dentist or orthodontist offers invisible aligners, you may find this increasingly popular option works for you. Cosmetic procedures—like veneers or bonding, where your dentist applies resin or ceramic strips to the front teeth—can change the look of your smile rapidly. If extra gum tissue is causing the problem, you might also consider a procedure to remove the extra gum with or without braces to help the teeth move to their final locations.

All of these options are designed to change the look of your smile, not necessarily to change the health of your smile. It’s important to discuss your options with your trusted dental care providers to make sure that any decision is the right one for you and your individual smile.

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