Diastema: Comprehensive Insights into Causes, Treatments, and Prevention


Diastema, derived from the Greek word for “interval,” refers to a space or gap between two teeth. This condition is relatively common and can occur between any teeth, but it is most frequently observed between the two upper front teeth, also known as the upper central incisors.

While diastema can be a natural part of dental development, especially in children, it can persist into adulthood and may be associated with various dental issues.

Some people may not mind having a gap between their teeth and may even consider it a unique feature of their smile. On the other hand, for individuals who are self-conscious about their appearance or experience functional issues such as difficulty chewing or speaking, a diastema can be bothersome. Additionally, if the diastema traps food particles and leads to issues like gum disease or tooth decay, treatment may be necessary. Understanding the causes, treatment options, and prevention of diastema is crucial. At Santa Ynez Valley Dental, we carefully consider your aesthetic preferences, functional concerns, and oral health considerations when determining the best approach for your dental care.

Causes of Diastema

Diastema can arise due to several factors affecting oral health:

Diastema - Genetics

A genetic predisposition can cause a mismatch between tooth size and the upper jaw size, resulting in spaces between teeth. This condition is often first noticeable in baby teeth, indicating a higher likelihood of diastema in permanent teeth. If tooth size is too small relative to the jaw, gaps can form, particularly between the two upper front teeth.

Diastema - Missing Teeth
Missing Teeth

The premature loss of a primary tooth can cause adjacent teeth to shift, creating gaps. This is a common occurrence when a missing tooth, particularly in baby teeth or primary teeth, leads to crooked teeth as the permanent teeth emerge incorrectly. Additionally, when an adult loses a tooth, the neighboring teeth can drift into the empty space, causing gaps.

Diastema - Oversized Labial Frenum
Oversized Labial Frenum

An abnormally large labial frenum, the tissue connecting the upper lip to the gum line, can prevent teeth from closing together, often resulting in a large gap between the two upper front teeth. This condition can significantly affect the alignment of the front teeth and the overall aesthetics of the smile.

Diastema - Tongue Thrusting
Tongue Thrusting

Incorrect swallowing reflex, also known as tongue thrust or reverse swallow, can contribute to the development or exacerbation of diastema. This condition occurs when the tongue pushes against the front teeth during swallowing instead of pressing against the roof of the mouth. Over time, this repetitive pressure can lead to the front teeth protruding forward, creating or widening gaps between the teeth. Additionally, tongue thrust can also contribute to other orthodontic issues such as an open bite or an overjet (protrusion of the upper front teeth).

Diastema - Thumb Sucking
Thumb Sucking

Thumb sucking is a common habit among children, but it can lead to dental issues if it persists beyond a certain age. When a child sucks their thumb for an extended period, the constant pressure can push the front teeth forward, causing them to protrude. This can create or exacerbate gaps between the teeth. Additionally, thumb sucking and other bad habits can affect the alignment of the upper and lower teeth, leading to misalignment issues that may contribute to diastema development.

Diastema - Gum Disease
Gum Disease

Advanced gum disease can lead to gum recession and the loosening of teeth, creating gaps. This condition often involves bone loss and other symptoms that affect the entire mouth. Effective periodontal disease treatment is crucial to manage these symptoms and prevent further gaps from forming.

Having a complete understanding of the causes of diastema enables you and your dentist to collaborate effectively on the most appropriate dental plan.

Is Treatment Necessary for Diastema?

Determining the necessity of treatment for diastema hinges on several factors. These include:


Cosmetic Concerns

If you are self-conscious about the appearance of the gap and it affects your confidence or self-esteem, you may consider treatment for aesthetic reasons.


Functional Issues

Diastemas can sometimes cause difficulties with speech, chewing, or biting. If the gap affects your ability to speak clearly or chew food properly, treatment may be necessary.


Oral Health

Diastemas can trap food particles, increasing the risk of dental decay and gum disease. If you struggle to keep the area clean or notice signs of gum inflammation or decay, treatment may be needed to prevent oral problems.


Orthodontic Concerns

In cases where the diastema is part of a larger orthodontic issue, such as crowding or misalignment of teeth, treatment may be necessary to address overall dental alignment and bite function.

Diastema Treatments

It’s essential to consult with a dentist or orthodontist to evaluate your specific case and determine whether treatment for a diastema is necessary based on your aesthetic goals, functional needs, and oral health considerations.

Diastema - Orthodontic Treatment
Orthodontic Treatment

Braces or clear aligners, such as Invisalign, are effective in moving teeth closer together and closing gaps, particularly for midline diastema between the two front teeth. These fixed appliances gradually adjust tooth positioning to achieve a more aligned appearance.

Diastema - Dental Bonding

A tooth-colored resin material can be applied to the teeth to fill small gaps, providing a quick and non-invasive solution. This method can help improve the aesthetic appeal of the teeth without extensive dental work.

Diastema - Veneers

Custom-made porcelain shells are bonded to the front of the teeth to cover gaps and enhance appearance, especially between the upper lateral incisors. Veneers are durable and provide a natural look, effectively addressing spacing issues.

Diastema - Dental Implants
Dental Implants

When a person loses a tooth, implants can serve as artificial tooth roots, supporting replacement teeth. This option is often necessary when teeth are missing due to periodontal disease and there is enough bone to support the implant. Implants help maintain the structure of the mouth and prevent other teeth from shifting.

Diastema - Frenectomy

If an oversized labial frenum is the cause, a minor surgical procedure can reduce its size, allowing the teeth to align properly. This procedure can help close the gap naturally and improve the overall dental alignment.

Diastema - Gum Disease Treatment
Gum Disease Treatment

Addressing gum disease involves scaling, root planing, and oral antibiotics to treat the infection and inflammation. Once the gums are healthy, other treatments can be considered to close the gap, such as orthodontic treatment or dental crowns.


While not all cases of diastema are preventable, good oral hygiene practices can reduce the risk:


Brush Teeth Twice Daily

Prevent the buildup of hardened plaque and maintain gum health to prevent gum disease.


Floss Daily

Remove food particles and plaque from between the teeth to keep the gaps from forming.


Regular Cleaning

Schedule regular cleaning and exams with a dentist to catch potential issues early.


Discourage Bad Habits

Break habits like thumb sucking in younger children and correct improper swallowing reflexes to prevent the development of diastema.


Maintain Healthy Teeth

Practice good oral hygiene to prevent gaps and maintain overall dental health.

In conclusion, if you are bothered by a gap between your teeth, know that there are effective treatment options available to address diastema. Consulting with a dental professional can provide you with personalized solutions to close the gap, improve your smile, and boost your confidence. Remember, taking action to address your concerns about diastema can lead to not just a more aesthetically pleasing smile, but also better health and overall well-being.

At Santa Ynez Valley Dental, we are dedicated to providing exceptional dental care tailored to meet the unique needs of every patient. Under the expert guidance of Dr. James Morelli, we offer a comprehensive range of services to ensure your dental health and enhance your smile. Dr. Morelli, a distinguished dental professional, brings years of experience and a commitment to excellence in dental care. His expertise spans a wide array of dental treatments, ensuring that every patient receives personalized and effective care.

Visit Us Today

Discover the difference quality dental care can make at Santa Ynez Valley Dental. Whether you are dealing with diastema, need artificial teeth, or require a dental bridge, we have the solutions to help you achieve a healthy, beautiful smile. Contact us today to schedule your appointment and take the first step towards optimal oral health.