Scotts Valley and Santa Cruz, CA
One of the more common concerns we hear when it comes to the appearance of someone’s smile is the presence of gaps between teeth. Many people want the spaces closed, and there are different ways to do that. However, there are some critical things to consider before you decide to close the spaces.
Think of the size of the jaws, or “arches.” This is directly related to “tongue space”: the amount of room the tongue has to carry out its functions. If spaces are closed with orthodontics (braces), it reduces the arch size, which in turn reduces the tongue space. This may be a problem as now the tongue will have to find room to fit in the reduced space. It usually does so in one of three ways:
1. By posturing in between the upper and lower teeth. This can create an “open bite” where either the front teeth or back teeth don’t meet.
2. By pushing up against the front teeth. Also known as a “tongue thrust”, this improper tongue posture can re-open the spaces that were closed,
3. By moving back into the airway space behind it. A tongue that has moved too far back into the airway can cause snoring or, worse yet, obstructive sleep apnea.
Other ways of dealing with gaps are cosmetic bonding or porcelain veneers. The advantage of this treatment is the tongue space is not reduced. The disadvantages are cost of treatment and the probability that it would have to be retreated sometime in the future due to wear and aging of the materials used. Sometimes the size of the gap is such that cosmetic bonding would not result in a well proportioned tooth size, therefore a combination of treatments, such as orthodontics AND bonding or veneers can be ideal. Every case is different, but ultimately maintaining the tongue space is critical.