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4 Possible Gapped Teeth Causes You Probably Didn't Know

By Kyle Kirkland
Gapped teeth can be caused by factors both within and outside of your control. Here are some possible causes of gapped teeth.

If you have gapped teeth, you may have heard of the word “diastema”, which is the medical term used to describe a space or gap between two teeth. Read on for more about the potential causes of gapped teeth. 

Hereditary Teeth Gaps

“Microdontia is the genetic condition of having smaller than average teeth,” Eugene Gamble, BDS, a periodontist in Barbados, tells WebMD Connect to Care.

“This condition can occur on its own or can be compounded with the genetic absence of teeth. As the teeth are smaller than normal, you do not get the appropriate tooth contacts and alignment to fill the set of teeth, and the gaps between the teeth are a common result,” Gamble says. 

Inherited conditions can also cause gaps in teeth. “Genetics is one factor,” Margarita Degtyareva, DDS, a dentist at Always Beautiful Smile in Brooklyn, New York, tells WebMD Connect to Care. “In the dental profession we call it size 'jaw-teeth discrepancy’, which means someone's tooth size is too small for their jaw size,” Degtyareva says. 

Harmful Habits

Even if you don’t inherit gapped teeth, certain habits can contribute to their development.

“Finger- or pacifier-sucking is another cause of gapped teeth,” LaQuia Vinson, DDS, a dentist at Riley Children's Health, tells WebMD Connect to Care. Continued finger- or pacifier-sucking prevents the teeth from growing into your mouth correctly, which can lead to gapped teeth. 

In fact, the American Dental Association recommends that parents gently discourage thumb-sucking past the age of 4. 

Gum Disease

Gum disease can also lead to gaps in teeth.

Some symptoms of gum disease include:

  • Gums that bleed during and after brushing 
  • Red, swollen, or tender gums
  • Receding gums
  • Loose or shifting teeth

“Poor periodontal health affects spacing. Gingivitis and resulting periodontitis cause bone loss, tooth instability, and shifting,” Degtyareva says.

Since the gums are the foundation for teeth, poor gum health will affect teeth. “Teeth start moving because of the loss of bone and attachment. Teeth can then flare out and create new and exaggerated spaces,” Degtyareva says.

Seeking teeth-straightening treatment can improve gum health and overall oral health by making teeth easier to clean and reducing the risk of losing tooth enamel.

Poor Muscle Attachment or Alignment

Mouth muscles that are incorrectly attached can also cause gapped teeth.

“The frenum is a muscle attachment between the lips and cheeks and the bone around your teeth. In certain situations, the attachment can be located in an abnormal position and can prevent the teeth from aligning properly,” Gamble says. 

The tongue is another muscle that, if positioned improperly, can lead to gaps between teeth. “The position of the tongue is important for oral health. When the tongue is incorrectly positioned, it causes multiple discrepancies which include spaces between teeth, splayed teeth, space between upper and lower jaw, occlusal problems, and crowding,” Degtyareva says.

Even if you are experiencing multiple dental issues, there are specialists who can help. Whether it’s an orthodontist for straightening your teeth or a periodontist for treating and preventing gum disease, you don’t have to struggle with dental issues. 

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