Today is very special to me because it marks the advent of an operation dear to my heart. This is the first of a mini series you can expect over the next few weeks called Reclaiming the Space. Here I’m going to facilitate discussion on having a gap otherwise known as “space teeth” and medically known as a diastema. Not only do I consider this an opportunity to express the beauty in this unique feature thereby reclaiming the space but I also want to give women around me who have gaps (I may extend to men too depending on how things go :)) the space to share their experiences and I want you to hear the stories as well!
A new story will be here each week and I’m so thankful for those who are willing to add to this discourse and enlighten us all. I will begin with my story as my keen interest in talking about this is derived from my own experience. And if you think this is worthwhile, interesting or you know someone who would like to add their voice to the circle please be sure to contact me, share and support!
Alright let’s get to it! When I was a little girl with those precious temporary teeth I had what we would call a perfect smile. It meant nothing to five year old me. I had bigger fish to fry at that age what with navigating lower primary school, playing tag and battling tests. I don’t even remember when I transitioned to my permanent teeth but when I did I became a girl with spaced teeth.
A diastema is often a hereditary trait. Yet when I look at my immediate family tree I am the only one with one (currently at least). I sometimes felt left out and self conscious and time and opinions further cemented that. I avoided smiling, I nitpicked photos in which I did. I remember events unfolding from being called ugly in Primary school to facing one of my High School classmates advice about improving my appearance which included getting my gap shut. That occasion ended with one big old show down which usually isn’t in my demeanour but I had has enough. Enough clearly did not last very long as I soon had to expand my threshold for the rest of my life to accommodate comments about my teeth.
Up to recently, someone attempted to comfort me that the gap I observed in my own child’s teeth should vanish with the appearance of his permanent teeth. “Oh don’t worry!” She exclaimed recalling her own experiences of distress that her child may have had to continue sporting a gap in the future. I gave her one ironic, gappy toothed grin and thanked her for her evident concern.
Gaps were clearly not the first preference of many when it came to teeth. I read stories like one about the popular model and entrepeneur Jordyn Woods. How relentlessly she was harassed for her pre-“glow up” image which included a gap in her teeth. The American public reminded her of how undesirable her previous appearance was. And for a long time I didn’t want that appearance either. I longed for the day when a random man in Middle Street, Kingstown couldn’t stop me with a cringey: “Ey gyel me like yuh space teeth.” And an uncomfortable, voracious stare accompanying it. In the Caribbean I’ve heard it bears sexual significance making these scenarios even more discomfitting.
In spite of its seeming exclusion from the status quo, gaps do carry overt expressions and interpretations of loveliness in other cultures. In some African countries including Ghana and Namibia, a diastema symbolises beauty and fertility. Elsewhere such as in France it is known as a sign of good luck. Girls with gaps are attractive and lucky yall! I’m glad many of us know it already but I had to learn 🙂 and there are others who will too. I knew in theory God made me beautiful but I have only recently begun embracing it.
I’m not here to bash people with Jessica Alba smiles! You are beautiful! What I want us to do however is some introspection about our standards of beauty and how and why we arrived at those conclusions. I’m not here to try to undermine the empire of cosmetic dentistry if your teeth need aligning for medical reasons or simply if you prefer you are free to do so. But my recent experience helped me gain some appreciation for what people often perceive as a flaw.
Lately, I have experienced more pressure to close the space in my teeth. Feeling a little concerned that it looked a bit wider than before, I decided to visit an orthodontist. My husband has consistently demonstrated his love for my gap accompanied me for support. After consultation it was clear that my naturally occurring 6 mm gap, was the only thing in my mouth that really needed “fixing”. I was left to deliberate about whether or not my future entailed composite or veneers when one of my very good friends TJ happened to send me a collage of beautiful women with gaps reminding me that mine was too. Previously we had no conversations about my prior visit to the orthodontist. It was like a godsend. She was quick to bring to my remembrance that another model, Slick Woods, had a gap which gave her an edge in her career. I keep using models as illustrations not because I look to them exclusively for validation but because many of them have strong influences about perceptions of beauty in our society. Slick Woods and others such as Lindsey Wixon present the representation I needed to see. Their presence reinforces that our perceptions are malleable. A Gisele Bundchen gave curvy girls a chance in a modelling industry dominated by slender beauties. What am I saying? Celebrate a category over another? Not at all. I want us to celebrate our separate textures; our diversity. And so I want you to join me on this journey of appreciating these beautiful women with spaces: some weeks through listening, some through viewing and some through reading. I’m looking forward to it with all of us. I want us all to share their stories and our own responsive Thank you!