Growing up, if someone doesn’t point out the difference in your physical feature, you’ll always think its normal until you grow old enough to notice them. Same with teeth. Especially when you have a gap in between your front teeth.
Children’s teeth have gaps in them because as they grow, their jaws are getting bigger but their baby teeth stays the same causing some gaps in their teeth. As their baby teeth falls out, they start to grow their permanent teeth and those new growths fill in the gaps. This doesn’t always happen though.
The gaps found in adult teeth, also known as diastemas and can be found in the upper or lower front teeth and sometimes in both. Though we see many people without these gaps, know that having them does not mean there is anything wrong with you and that it is an absolutely normal occurrence. But I do agree there is a stigma around gapped teeth. Some find it very ugly and people even go as far as making fun of people with gapped teeth. We therefore develop insecurities around our gapped teeth and what ends up happening is, we close them either as kids or as adults.
See, growing up in Ghana my aunts and uncles always adored my gap. To them, it was a sign of beauty but to me, it was ugly. I always wondered why I had it and no one else in my family did. I would see people on TV and instantly gravitate toward their teeth. I would see how straight, white and perfect they are and wish I was like them. Magazines always showed models with teeth as white as pearls with matching chiseled faces and they were instantly god’s and goddesses. I would read through these magazines and instantly wish my gap was not there. I would pray to God to close my gap before I woke up the next morning.
The gap, in some cultures, are considered the epitome of beauty. In Ghana and Nigeria, they are signs of royalty. Too bad they don’t teach us this when we are young. We see the people on TV and their pearly whites. After watching so many “perfect” people on TV, I began to compare myself to them. I always looked at their teeth first and I started hating my gap, then other parts of my body. I began to internalize the idea that if I don’t look like the Barbie doll my mother bought me or the girl with straight, white, and most importantly, gapless teeth on TV, then I won’t be considered beautiful. I had the white and straight part down. I just needed that ugly gap in between my teeth gone! It makes me look and feel ugly.
I remember at the age of 12 years old i asked to go see the dentist because I wanted to close my gap. My dad looked at me and asked if it was absolutely necessary to close the gap. I insisted it was absolutely necessary. But thank goodness we were poor!! We couldn’t afford braces and insurance wouldn’t cover it because “mY tEetH wErE alrEaDy StRaiGHt”. We couldn’t afford the Invisilign or any other cosmetic procedures.
I was stuck with ugly thing forever!
I was forced to accept my gap and move through life. I went to school and events as usual but my insecurities about my gap affected the way I smile. I never showed my teeth. I would always give a shy smile and when I laughed out loud, I would cover my mouth. I did this throughout high school and college. I would be told I have a beautiful smile and instantly offer rebuttal as to why it is not “beautiful “. It’s a smile, but not a beautiful one.
Little by little, I noticed there were more people on TV starting to look like me. They had gaps!! One of the first celebrities I saw with a gap on TV was As Uzo Aduba (Crazy Eyes from OITNB). In an interview she did with NBCNews, Uzo described begging her mother for braces. Her mother, just like my dad, declined her request for braces. Instead, she sat her down and explained to her the beauty in her gap.
Another notable celebrity with a gap on TV is Michael Strahan. When I first saw this man I had no idea what to think. I just said to myself, BOY!! HE IS BOLD!!. Michael is a retired pro football player who went on to co-host and was, for four years, the co-host of LIVE! With Kelly and Michael until his departure in 2016. When asked why he did not close his gap his answer was no matter how flawed his smile was by Hollywood standards, it is as much a part of his identity as his football career.
How can we ever forget the one and only: MIKE TYSONNNNN
Mike Tyson, with his extensive history in the boxing ring and Hollywood, still refused to close his gap. Why is that? He did not care what Hollywood or anyone had to say about it.
I learned from these three and many more that I need to accept myself and my gap first because it may not be Hollywood’s standard but they are mine. My gap may be ugly to some but they are not living with it and my gap is rather different. My family tried to tell me it was beautiful but all I could focus on was how ugly it looked just because I was comparing myself to those on television. Everyone has that unique thing about them and I choose to accept my gap and enjoy its uniqueness.