A gap in the teeth can look charming on a child, but by adulthood, many people wish to close spaces in their teeth. What causes gaps in the teeth and what can be done to fix them?
What causes gaps?
Gaps in the teeth can be caused by several things including:
-Enlarged tissue over the upper central incisors, known as a labial frenum
-Jaw bone disproportionate to tooth size
-Habits such as tongue thrusting or thumb sucking
Why close them?
Most patients pursuing orthodontic treatment are self-conscious of spaces and wish to close them for esthetic reasons. There are also health reasons to close gaps. The gum tissue in an open space is unprotected. Hard foods like chips could hurt tender gums. Gum disease is more likely to occur in gaps as well.
How do orthodontists close gaps?
When you first get braces, the focus is on aligning the teeth. Spaces can’t be closed until the teeth are mostly straight, usually a few months after getting braces. Once you reach this point, the orthodontist will put stretchy links on your braces called power chains. Power chains close space by squeezing all the teeth together. Gaps can close in anywhere from a few weeks to a few months, depending on severity. This can feel a little painful! Power chains come in lots of different colors, both neutral and bold.
Habit-caused spacing can be helped with orthodontic appliances and simple tongue exercises taught by an orthodontist.
Gaps caused by a labial frenum can be closed, but sometimes you’ll need a minor laser procedure performed on the frenum. The procedure is fairly simple and healing takes just a few days.
If your spaces are caused by gum disease, you must have it treated before the spaces can be closed.
Can clear aligners close gaps?
Yes, clear aligners can close small gaps. Larger gaps often require treatment with braces.
Will gaps come back after treatment?
Only if retainers are not worn consistently. After orthodontic treatment, you’ll need to wear retainers full time for a few months, then at night only for the rest of your life. If the retainers are not worn, the teeth will relapse and gaps may come back.
If you had a gap between your front teeth before braces, Dr. Peterson may recommend a permanent retainer. This is a small piece of wire glued to the back of the teeth that ensures the space does not come back. Keep the wire very clean and check it regularly to be sure nothing has come unglued, as unnoticed breakages could result in the gap reopening.
Gaps in the teeth are fairly simple to treat. If you have a gap you would like to close, schedule a free consultation at Peterson Family Orthodontics to learn more about your treatment options.