“Hey Doc, why do I have a gap opening between my teeth?!! I didn’t have gaps before I started braces.”
First thing you want to do in this situation: DON’T PANIC! This is probably one of the most common
questions an orthodontist is asked and is not an unusual occurrence.
Gaps between teeth can happen for several reasons, but the most common one is that the teeth, during
their alignment stage, are fighting for space to move. The nature of the wires used in modern
orthodontics treatment tends to expand the arch form in order to un-crowd and align teeth. This
expansion often causes space to open where none existed before. This is a great sign of movement and
is usually nothing to be concerned about. These spaces are easily closed once you get to a different
stage in your treatment.
An upper midline gap can also open if a patient has an appliance called an expander. An expander is a
lab fabricated appliance made specifically for the patient. Parents are instructed to turn the expander
using a small key, which widens the screw on the expander and is positioned at the middle of the roof of
your mouth. The purpose of this appliance is to open the midpalatal suture, so the gap that opened up
between the two front teeth is a sign that the suture is opening….your two bones are literally being
spread apart! This is a desirable outcome, believe it or not, and is an indication that the treatment is
working. Again, this gap that opens up will be closed at a later time in your treatment.
Other reasons for seeing gaps are more obvious, like when we are actively opening space for teeth or if
teeth were extracted, so not all gaps cause patients to go into panic mode. The two reasons discussed
above are the ones patients find the most alarming or confusing. Hopefully this clears up any questions
you might have about those pesky spaces, but if in doubt, just ask us! We are always happy to go into
long discourses on the nature of nickel titanium rectangular wires, their effects on torque and how this
causes spacing….any takers???

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