What is Diastema and How to Treat it?

What is Diastema and How to Treat it

Every person has a unique smile characterized by a feature that sets them apart. People with gaps in their front teeth tend to attract attention for that distinctive element called diastema. Spaces can appear on any section of the teeth and have different sizes. The front ones are the most noticeable. The gaps are never harmful and can emerge in both adults and children. However, those in children tend to close as their permanent teeth grow. In most cases, the diastema meaning materializes when the gap is more than 0.5 mm. That is why the term never refers to children.

You may wonder, is a diastema normal? Yes, the space should not cause alarm, even in adults. However, you can reduce the gap if you feel uncomfortable with procedures such as tooth bonding in Barrie or dental bridges. But first, let’s see what can cause diastema in the first place.

What Causes Diastema

Regarding what causes a gap between front teeth, several factors ranging from genetics to thumb sucking come to play. Our experts at Molson Park Dental Clinic have seen a wide range of diastema causes and have relevant experience dealing with all of them.

Persistent Poor Childhood Habits

Some habits like thumb sucking are typical in children, but they become problematic when prolonged. Tongue thrust also starts as a healthy habit that shows children how to push out objects they do not want to pass their throats, but it becomes complicated as the child grows.

Bad Reflex When Swallowing

Tongue thrust is a term dentists use to refer to the habit of using the tongue to push against the front teeth instead of the roof of the mouth when swallowing food. Common symptoms of a tongue thrust include breathing through the mouth when the nose is not congested, lips not closing completely, the tongue sticking between teeth when you are resting or swallowing food, or interchanging the S and Z sounds when talking.

Thumb Sucking

Most toddlers have the habit of sucking their thumbs, but it fades as they age. Children who continue with the practice until their elementary school days are likely to have gaps between their teeth. The excess pressure on the front teeth and upper jaw force teeth to move apart.


A gap forming between front teeth is ordinary between members of the family. Children can inherit it from their parents and pass it down to other generations. Other features that may be associated with genetics and space formation include:

Jaw Formation

People with wide jaws are likely to have diastema because the teeth become too small to fill the available space. Even though that might be an issue, the opposite can also happen. Narrow jaws may not provide enough room for the teeth to align correctly, resulting in overcrowding. Both issues can be genetic.

Teeth Structure

Sometimes gaps between baby teeth indicate that adult teeth will be sizeable. If permanent teeth become smaller, bigger spaces will remain between them. That is likely to happen with the upper lateral incisors – if they are small, diastema may occur.

Teeth Failing to Erupt Properly

Typically, an adult tooth grows to replace the opening left by a baby tooth that falls out. If that does not happen, the space between teeth becomes permanent. The issue can be hereditary, but it can also occur without genetic connections. According to some studies, approximately 20% of people miss an adult tooth because of their genes. A significant number also get the gap due to external factors they encounter while growing.

Maxillary Labial Frenum Size

The maxillary labial frenum is a connective tissue located between the upper front teeth and the gum line. If the tissue is not proportionate, it exerts too much pressure that pushes the front teeth further apart.

Poor Dental Hygiene Practices

Poor dental hygiene is at the top of what causes diastema, even though the condition is not a health issue. Food particles and other debris can remain hidden between teeth for a long time. If you do not brush and floss regularly. They can decompose and cause other dental problems like gum disease. Gums can swell or become sore, and without treatment, the teeth can loosen as a result. Teeth that are not steady can easily drift apart or fall out to cause diastema.

Signs of gum disease you can watch out for include bleeding gums, loose teeth, swollen gums, bad breath, receding gums, reddening, and reduction in bone volume. In most cases, teeth do not migrate if the gum disease is not advanced.


Some adults like to clench or grind their jaws. Even if it happens as a reflex, the excess pressure can cause the teeth to flare.

Possible Complications

Diastema is not a significant problem on its own. However, when combined with other issues like gum disease, it can cause noticeable misalignment issues. The result can be a never-ending cycle that forces you to seek dental services regularly. Debris gets stuck between teeth, causing gum problems, teeth loosen as a result, and the space between them widens.

Another complication you may experience involves biting. Additionally, a wide gap between front teeth can lead to overcrowding on either side.

Some people feel less comfortable with gaps, and that affects their self-esteem. If you start to hide your smile, you can seek treatment to improve the aesthetics.

How Do You Fix Diastema?

Diastema treatment depends on any possible underlying issues. For instance, if it is because of gum disease, the dentist will treat it first before reducing the gap. If not, the procedure will be for improving aesthetics only. The dentist examines the teeth then creates a treatment plan that may involve:


Veneers or bonding are especially helpful when the teeth are chipped or cracked. However, if the diastema is because of smaller teeth, veneers can still be the ideal solution. The thin veneer pieces of porcelain can add the necessary volume to fill the empty spaces.

The dentist may also opt for bonding, which means adding resin to the enamel and letting it harden.


One of the most effective gaping teeth treatments is braces. The dentist fixes wires and brackets that pull the teeth closer to each other over time. If you choose traditional metal braces, you may have dental brackets on teeth even if the gap is in one place. Other options such as ceramic and modern metal braces are available. They are more comfortable and less visible than the traditional bulky ones. The effectiveness and duration of use depend on the severity of the situation.

Invisalign is another common alternative to conventional braces. This invisible and removable option offers more convenience and discretion. They are perfect for people with busy lifestyles, and they do not cause significant changes in your habits. For instance, you can remove them when eating and place them back after; therefore, you drink and eat anything you like. Invisalign is usually customized and may not work in severe cases. The duration for using them differs with every person, but you have to use them for at least 22 hours a day for them to prevent the gap in teeth from getting wider.

Dental implants

A dental implant can fill a gap between gaps. It involves screwing metal into the jawbone and placing the fake tooth. If it is a single gap, a dental bridge is ideal.


Some types of diastema require surgical intervention. Dentists perform a frenectomy procedure when a big labial frenum causes the gap. Extensive gum disease may also involve scraping tartar from beneath the gums to prevent the infection from spreading.

How to Prevent Diastema

Hereditary diastema cases are not preventable, but you can maintain healthy practices that keep other problems at bay. Brush your teeth twice a day for two minutes, floss every day, visit your dental clinic regularly, rectify improper swallowing reflexes, and encourage children to avoid thumb sucking.

So, is diastema a disease? No. Diastema is a condition that cannot harm you unless accompanied by other issues like gum disease. The gap remains closed after treatment, but bad habits can reopen it. Our dentists are available to provide more information about causes, rectification, and prevention.