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Dental Embrasure Definition & Classification

Article by Dr. Leaver & Dr. Gardner

In an ideal smile, teeth are aligned in a smooth row with each tooth touching the tooth next to it and healthy gum tissue in between. The place where the teeth touch each other is called the “contact” and the area below the contact is called the “embrasure”. The gum tissue that normally fills in is called the “papilla”. When the papilla completely fits the embrasure, you can’t see the light between the teeth. Sometimes the contacts are touching but the gum tissue doesn’t completely fill the embrasure. There is a space or a dark triangle between the teeth under the contacts. The appearance of these dark triangles is affected by two things; 1) the shape of the teeth or 2) the shape and size of the papilla.

Different Shape of Teeth

If the teeth are rectangular in shape, the flat sides will lay side-by-side with little or no space between them. If the sides are more rounded, or the teeth are more triangular in shape, the embrasure is larger and more likely to appear as a space if the gum tissue isn’t ideal. It may be possible to change the shape of the teeth with veneers or bonding. This can make the sides flatter so they lie closer together. Another procedure will attempt to reshape or fill the sides of rounded or triangular teeth so they are flatter and can be moved closer together. This procedure is called “interproximal reduction” or “reproximation”. This can be performed by an orthodontist who is trained to know how much enamel can be safely removed without causing problems.

The Size & Shape of the Dental Papilla

The second factor related to the appearance of black triangles is the shape and size of the papilla between the teeth. As we get older, the height of our gum tissue naturally decreases and triangular spaces begin to appear. This also happens between straight teeth in healthy mouths. Teeth that are aligned properly will have room for normally shaped gum tissue between them. Crooked teeth overlap and allow little room for papilla between them. In this case, aligning the teeth will expose the fact that there wasn’t gum tissue between them to begin with. These people will sometimes think that the orthodontist caused the dark triangles. All the orthodontist did was uncover the fact that there were no papilla between the overlapping teeth in the first place.

Other Causes of Black Triangles Between Teeth

Gum recession can be a source of the “black triangles between the teeth” problem due to the position of the teeth, braces or orthodontics clenching and grinding of the teeth. When gums recede, the first place it will happen is the interdental papilla. Sometimes the cause is imperfect cosmetic dentistry that can include over-aggressive gum recontouring as well as porcelain veneers or dental crowns that are improperly sized or placed, leaving space below or around them.

Treatment for Black Triangles Between the Teeth

These triangles can be unsightly and can prematurely age your smile. These black triangles are also prone to accumulate food debris and excessive plaque. If you’re unhappy with the black triangles in your smile, have the professionals at Leaver & Gardner Orthodontics identify the cause and find a solution. Contact us today for an appointment.