Are Your Bad Habits Making the Gaps in Your Smile Worse?

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That gap between your teeth is known as a diastema. It’s any gap between teeth that’s wider than 0.5 millimeters. In most cases, these gaps aren’t a problem or a cause for concern, but they can widen over time and may cause dental health issues later on. 

There are certain habits that can put pressure on teeth in such a way that your diastema increases in size. In some cases, action can be taken to break the habit, or you may choose from a range of treatments to realign your smile without these spaces. 

Dr. Richard Blackburn and the team at Volterra Dental in Los Alamitos, California, can help to uncover the causes of your diastema, as well as offering solutions to both your gaps and the habits that might be making them worse. 

Defining diastema

Spaces between teeth happen for a wide range of reasons. Genetics could give you small teeth while setting them in a large jaw. You might have a thick frenum, the strip of tissue attaching the upper lip to the gums. Unusually shaped dental arches may lead to wide spacing. 

These are all unavoidable conditions that create gaps. While they remain treatable, there’s not much you can do to prevent gaps occurring in the first place. There are, though, some behavioral contributors to diastema formation. These bad habits can cause gaps to form or they may cause existing gaps to widen. 

A cause of dental issues

Half a millimeter isn’t very big. It’s about half the thickness of a credit card, so it’s a tight space. This is good from a dental care perspective, since such a small gap prevents food from getting caught between teeth, while still being wide enough to allow flossing to clear away plaque. 

When gaps grow bigger, the variety of food particles getting caught between teeth increases. These may get pressed into the gums while chewing. This boosted trapping factor associates with dental hygiene issues such as: 

  • Excess plaque buildup
  • Increased tartar formation
  • Bleeding gums
  • Receding gums
  • Gum disease
  • Loose teeth
  • Bad breath

Gaps can also affect a person’s esteem if the cosmetic appearance of the gap bothers them, even when the gap itself isn’t causing other problems. 

Bad habits that affect gap size

Babies and young toddlers tend to have the worst habits for causing gaps. The biggest offenders are pacifiers and thumb sucking. There are, however, adult equivalents that put chronic pressure on teeth and dental arches. 

Tongue thrust is a dysfunction of the swallowing process. Normally, when you swallow, your tongue presses on the roof of your mouth. Tongue thrust happens when you press your tongue against the backs of your front teeth. While it’s not a habit you fall into consciously, the resulting pressure is enough to force these teeth apart. 

Poor dental hygiene, on the other hand, often results from poor attention to home care, including regular brushing and flossing. As gum disease develops, inflammation causes damage to the gums. Teeth become loose and easy to move. Gaps appear and widen. 

There are ways to treat diastema, from braces and clear aligners to veneers and composite bonding. Contact our office by phone or online to schedule a consultation to assess your tooth gap condition. You could prevent a future dental issue with a treatment today. Book your appointment now.