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For other uses, see Diastema (disambiguation).
Crâne cheval.jpg
Large diastemata between incisors, canines and molars of a normal horse
Latin diastema
TA A05.1.03.078
FMA 77271
Anatomical terminology

A diastema (plural diastemata) is a space or gap between two teeth. Many species of mammals have diastemata as a normal feature, most commonly between the incisors and molars.

In humans[edit]

Actor Terry-Thomas was known for his 1⁄3-inch (8.5 mm) diastema.

In humans, the term is most commonly applied to an open space between the upper incisors (front teeth). It happens when there is an unequal relationship between the size of the teeth and the jaw.

Diastema is sometimes caused or exacerbated by the action of a labial frenulum (the tissue connecting the lip to the gum) causing high mucosal attachment and less attached keratinized tissue which is more prone to recession or by tongue thrusting, which can push the teeth apart.

In the Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer wrote of the "gap-toothed wife of Bath".[1] As early as this time period, the gap between the front teeth, especially in women, had been associated with lustful characteristics. Thus, the implication in describing "the gap-toothed wife of Bath" is that she is a middle-aged woman with insatiable lust. This has no scientific basis, but it has been a common premise in folklore since the Middle Ages.[citation needed]

In Ghana, Namibia and Nigeria, diastema is regarded as being attractive and a sign of fertility, and some people have even had them created through cosmetic dentistry.[2] In France, they are called "dents du bonheur" ("lucky teeth"),[3] and in Australia, gapped front teeth in children are said to be a predictor of future wealth.

Les Blank's Gap-Toothed Women is a documentary film about diastematic women.

Some well-known people noted for having diastema include country music singer Charley Pride, models Jessica Hart, Lindsey Wixson, Lauren Hutton and Lara Stone, American television news reporter and anchor Michelle Charlesworth, American football player Michael Strahan, actresses Vanessa Paradis, Eve Myles, Béatrice Dalle, Jorja Fox and Anna Paquin, singer/guitarist Ray Davies of the Kinks, actors Ernest Borgnine, Terry-Thomas, and Jamaica's Shebada, singers Madonna, Becky G, and Laura Pausini, singer-songwriters Elton John and Seal, rock musician Flea, rapper 50 Cent, late night show host David Letterman, guitarist Steve Howe,[4] comedian Paul F. Tompkins,[5] professional wrestler and former TNA World Heavyweight Champion Bobby Roode, Major League Baseball player Jimmy Rollins, Elvis Costello, singer Bobby Brown and his daughter Bobby Christina and former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.[1][2]

Dental corrections[edit]

Typical sequence of diastema correction using orthodontic braces.

Diastema is an adjustable dental condition. This includes traditional braces, Invisalign, dental bands or direct dental bonding to make the teeth wider and thus fill up the space. One problem with orthodontic correction is relapse: There is a strong propensity for the gap to reappear after treatment.[citation needed] This can be addressed by bonding a permanent retainer to the inside surfaces of the teeth to prevent the diastemia from reopening.

Other animals[edit]

Most species of herbivorous mammals have a diastema between the front teeth (incisors and canines), if present, and the cheek teeth (molars and premolars). This is the case, for example, for rodents and lagomorphs, as well as for most ungulates.

Many myrmecophagous mammals, such as the aardwolf, anteaters and pangolin, have either no teeth, or, in cases like the aardwolf, have large diastemas between their sparse teeth.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Rachel Dodes (September 8, 2010). "We Don't Mind the Gap: The Fashionable Flash a New Smile". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2010-09-10. 
  2. ^ a b "Midline diastemata in fashion". Bite magazine website. October 14, 2010. Archived from the original on April 20, 2012. Retrieved September 10, 2010. 
  3. ^ McGuiness, Romina (December 8, 2010). "The year of the gap-tooth trend". Metro. Archived from the original on March 8, 2012. Retrieved April 17, 2013. 
  4. ^ Gary Hill. "Steve Howe". AllMusic. Retrieved July 23, 2014. 
  5. ^ "Diastema (dentistry)". Factualworld. Retrieved 3 Apr 2014.