Proper oral care needs to begin young to be most effective. Everyday children’s smiles are at odds with the foods and comfort objects marketed towards them. Soothers, fingers, and basically anything else a child can fit in their mouth can damage their teeth, and that’s not even mentioning the sugary and acidic foods so many young Canadians consume regularly.
We’re fortunately to work with so many awesome parents who constantly strive to keep their child’s teeth healthy. However, despite their best efforts, sometimes things happen that they have no control over, like a gap in their child’s smile. What is this gap, and is it something to be concerned over?
The “official” term for a gap between two teeth is a diastema (two or more gaps are called diastemata). Firstly, it should be noted that many species of mammals have a diastema as part of their normal physiology. In humans, it is most commonly caused by an imbalance between the size of the jaw bones and the size of the teeth. Large teeth paired with a small jaw will result in crowding, whereas small teeth paired with a large jaw will cause gaps. Sometimes, a diastema can be caused by other reasons, such as missing or particularly undersized teeth. The most common place to find gaps are between the two front-most incisors.
What’s Causing it?
As we mentioned before, diastemata can develop as a result of differing jaw and tooth sizes. While that can be frustrating since you have no control over it, most children will out grow this sort of diastema as their larger adult teeth come in or their jaw grows to catch up. However, diastemata can also be caused by habits such as frequent thumb-sucking (or soother-sucking) or swallowing reflexes. Sucking tends to inadvertently put pressure on the front-most teeth, pulling them forward in awkward angles which can affect their later development. The same issue can result from an abnormal swallowing reflex. The majority of Canadians have their tongue positioned on the roof of their mouth while swallowing, but some may push their tongue against their front teeth, again putting force on them.
What should I do?
At the end of the day, a diastema by itself isn’t really cause for concern. Everyone’s teeth arrangement is slightly different, and a bigger or smaller space here or there is unlikely to make any significant difference. However, gaps between teeth may be a sign of a greater problem that needs addressing. For example, periodontal disease can result in diastemata. Gaps can also potentially result in overcrowding in other areas or signify missing teeth. For the most part however, people choose to fix the gaps for aesthetic reasons — not because they’re problematic. Gaps in baby teeth often fix themselves once adult teeth come in and don’t usually require any treatment, and orthodontics, like braces or Invisalign, are used to correct diastemata in teens and adults.
Aside from the off chance of something more serious, gaps aren’t a cause for concern from a health perspective, though many people choose to get them corrected anyway. If you’re looking to get your child started with orthodontics, don’t hesitate to give Bow Trail Dental a call at (403) 240-1257.