Large diastemata between incisors, canines and molars of a normal horse
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. Diastemata are common for children and can exist in adult teeth as well. Diastemata are primarily caused by imbalance in the relationship between the jaw and the size of teeth. If the labial frenulum (lip tissue) pulls, it can also push the teeth apart and cause a diastema between the center of the two front teeth.
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". As early as this time period, the gap between the front teeth, especially in women, was 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.
In Ghana, Namibia and Nigeria, diastemata are regarded as being attractive and a sign of fertility, and some people have even had them created through cosmetic dentistry. In France, they are called "dents du bonheur" ("lucky teeth"). This expression originated in Napoleon's time: when the Napoleonic army recruited, it was imperative that soldiers had incisors in perfect condition because they had to open their powder magazine with the teeth in order to recharge their rifles that they had to hold with their two hands. All those who had teeth apart were then classified as unfit to fight. Some men broke their own teeth to avoid going to war. 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, Georgia May Jagger and Lara Stone, American television news reporter and anchor Michelle Charlesworth, American football player Michael Strahan, actresses Vanessa Paradis, Léa Seydoux, Amira Casar, Eve Myles, Cecile de France, Béatrice Dalle, Jorja Fox, Anna Paquin and Uzo Aduba, singer/guitarist Ray Davies of the Kinks, musician Elvis Costello, actors Ernest Borgnine, Terry-Thomas, and Jamaica's Shebada, singers Madonna, Melanie Martinez, Becky G, and Laura Pausini, singer-songwriters Elton John, Mac Demarco and Seal, rock musician Flea, rapper 50 Cent, former late night show host David Letterman, guitarist Steve Howe, comedian Paul F. Tompkins, professional wrestler and former TNA World Heavyweight Champion Bobby Roode, Major League Baseball player Jimmy Rollins, singer Bobby Brown and his daughter Bobbi Kristina Brown and former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
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. This can be addressed by bonding a permanent retainer to the inside surfaces of the teeth.
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.
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