The study involved a 26- year-old female patient examined at UB's orthodontic clinic who complained that a large space had developed between her upper central incisors or upper front teeth. The patient also had a tongue piercing that held a barbell-shaped tongue stud.
The tongue was pierced seven years earlier and every day for seven years she had pushed the stud between her upper front teeth, creating the space between them and, subsequently, habitually placing it in the space. The patient did not have a space between her upper front teeth prior to the tongue piercing.
"The barbell is never removed because the tongue is so vascular that leaving the stud out can result in healing of the opening in the tongue, said Tabbaa, "so it makes perfect sense that constant pushing of the stud against the teeth -- every day with no break -- will move them or drive them apart."
The patient provided the research team with photos that demonstrated she had no diastema, or space, prior to having her tongue pierced. For the purposes of treating this patient's space, it was assumed that positioning of the tongue stud between the maxillary central incisors or "playing" caused the midline space.
Complications of gapped front teeth can include:
Self-consciousness – some people may feel embarrassed, and be reluctant to smile with parted lips.
Tooth misalignment – a large gap between the front teeth could leave not enough room for the lateral teeth (the ones next to the front teeth). This may cause tooth displacement and problems with a person’s bite.
Your orthodontist should be able to advise you on whether treatment is needed when your child is about 10 or 11 years old. Options may include:
Veneers – if the gap is small, veneers that are slightly wider than the teeth are bonded to the tooth surfaces. (Big gaps aren’t treated with veneers, because the resulting front teeth would look abnormally wide.)
Removable appliance – such as a plate.
Fixed appliance – such as braces. Brackets are fixed to the front teeth and rubber bands used to pull the teeth together.
Frenectomy – surgery to remove the fraenum, usually done after the gap is closed by orthodontic treatment.