If you’ve flipped through Vogue lately, you may notice a surprising trend among the otherwise flawless women who model clothes: Gaps between their front teeth. Once considered a flaw, gap teeth are quickly becoming a charming quirk. Madonna and Elton John were early to embrace the gap. Although Lady Gaga is happy she got hers closed, it’s becoming more common every year to see it as a unique and even beautiful feature. The most recent American Bachelorette even sports one!
In fact, a tooth gap is becoming so popular that some people even seek to have one created artificially. But do gapped front teeth spell trouble for your oral health?
Have a Natural Tooth Gap?
If you have a natural tooth gap, a dentist has probably mentioned it to you. Maybe they offered to close it with orthodontics or dental bonding, or maybe they told you it was only a cosmetic issue. Either answer could be right, depending on your circumstance and your specific tooth gap.
The risk of a tooth gap depends primarily on its size and how effectively you can perform good oral hygiene. Our oral hygiene routines — brushing and flossing — are designed for teeth that butt up against each other. But a gap can make it easier for food debris (and, subsequently, plaque and bacteria, leading to cavities) to build up in that space. You may need to adjust your oral hygiene routine to ensure that gap gets adequately cleaned. Your dentist can provide some advice, such as adding interdental brushes to your oral hygiene arsenal.
The best way to make sure your tooth gap isn’t putting your oral health at risk is simply to ask your dentist about it. If your tooth gap is easy for you to keep clean and clear, then it most likely comes down to whether or not you like how it looks. If you don’t, braces can close the distance by bringing your teeth closer together, or porcelain veneers can simply fill in the gap with slightly larger facades for your teeth.
Seeking an Artificial Tooth Gap?
Maybe you have the opposite problem, and you’re looking to add a stylish gap to your teeth. While this isn’t necessarily unsafe or unhealthy, it’s important that you speak with your dentist about your options and ensure that you fully understand the risks associated with such a procedure.
Just like there are two main ways to close a tooth gap, there are two main ways to add a tooth gap — move the teeth, or remove tooth material. If there’s enough space in your mouth, braces can simply shift your teeth away from center to open up a gap. However this would be a months-long process, just like any other type of orthodontics. And if your mouth is packed full of teeth, it may not be possible.
Alternatively, your dentist may offer to shave down some of the tooth material, creating space that way. However, this is a risky procedure. It’s important not to take too much material off the teeth, and removing the outer layer can make teeth both more sensitive and more prone to decay. Whenever possible, it’s best not to remove natural tooth material. Nothing is better for fulfilling the functional and beauty demands on your teeth than enamel, and once it’s removed there’s currently no way to regrow it.