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What is the “Black Triangle” and How is it Treated?

Circle showing the black triangle that occurs from gum recession

There’s been a great many famous triangles in history: the Bermuda triangle, the Pythagorean triangle, various love triangles… In the wonderful world of dentistry, however, one of the most talked about triangles is the black triangle. Are you familiar with the black triangle and how it can affect your smile? If not, you’re not alone. 

Black triangle is the common name cosmetic dentists have given to the gaps that occur between teeth because of their dark and triangular appearance. It is also known as black triangle disease, open gingival embrasures, and the loss of interdental papilla. It is estimated that about 30% of adults currently have black triangles and they are one reason why more adults than ever are seeking orthodontic and cosmetic dental treatment. 

Black triangles can be caused by teeth movement, but are most commonly caused by bone loss and gum recession. In some cases, such as with diastema, gaps can even occur naturally. Although gaps are not necessarily bad for your oral health by default, they can lead to certain problems if not properly cared for. 

One common issue associated with gaps between the teeth is that food can get stuck easier and food debris can accumulate, leading to the development of plaque and tartar. Plaque can be removed with a toothbrush, while tartar is much harder and must be removed using special dental scalers. Both plaque and tartar can host thousands of bacteria that can eventually lead to tooth decay.

This can be especially detrimental if plaque and tartar form along the gum line, because it can cause or exacerbate existing gum disease. When the gums become irritated, they will continue to recede further, which will lead to larger gaps, loose teeth, and possible bone loss. If not treated, gum disease can even result in the loss of your teeth. 

Another issue with gaps is simply of an aesthetic nature. Having one or more dark spaces between your teeth can make your teeth, smile, and overall appearance look older. Additionally, some people do not like the look of gapped teeth and having black triangles causes them to have low self-esteem regarding their smile. Black triangles can also cause airflow between the affected teeth that can cause bubbles to form when speaking. Finally, receding gums associated with black triangles can make your teeth look like they are too large for your mouth. 

Luckily, if your mouth has been decorated with black triangles, there are a number of things that can be done to resolve this issue. Some possible treatment options to remove black triangles include: 

Dental Veneers: 

Veneers are thin shells made from porcelain or dental composite that fit over the front surface of visible teeth. There are both traditional dental veneers, which require the removal of a small amount of enamel, and no-prep veneers, which are ultra thin and can simply be adhered to the tooth with no preparations. Both types of veneers can eliminate black triangles by adding tooth structure and correcting contour issues so that healthy gum tissue can form. Additionally, veneers can correct other dental issues including alignment, the size and shape of your teeth, and discoloration. 

three porcelain veneers arranged in a semi-circle on the right side of a black background

To place dental veneers, your teeth will first be prepared by gently filing down a small amount of your enamel. This is an essential step to ensure that the veneers will fit correctly at not look bulky. If you opt for no-prep veneers, this step will not be necessary. Once your teeth have been prepared a digital scan or dental impression will be taken of your mouth. This information will be sent to a dental lab to have your dental veneers custom fabricated. In the meantime, temporary veneers will be placed. Once your dental veneers are complete, they will be fit and permanently adhered to your teeth. 

Composite Bonding: 

Composite bonding, also referred to as dental bonding, is a minimally-invasive approach to removing black triangles from your smile. This cosmetic dental technique uses the same composite resin that is used for composite fillings to fill in the gaps causing the black triangle. In this way, composite bonding can easily be used to change the contour of your teeth and eliminate unsightly gaps. 

Woman with partially open white smile

During a composite bonding procedure, a shade guide will be used to determine the correct color of the composite resin. Then, your teeth may be prepared with a thorough cleaning to remove any plaque, tartar, or debris from the affected area. In some cases, the surface of your teeth may also be slightly altered to accommodate the composite resin.Next, the composite resin will be placed in layers, with each layer being dried and set before placing the next layer. During placement, each layer will be applied, shaded, and textured so that the final look is both natural and aesthetic. 

Dental Crowns: 

Another option for eliminating black triangles is to use a dental crown or crowns. Dental crowns are caps that fit over the crown, or top visible portion of the tooth. They are generally used when a large amount of natural tooth structure has been lost due to a large filling or root canal. However, dental crowns can also be placed over damaged teeth to restore them to their previous shape. In the case of black triangles, dental crowns are often used to change the shape of the tooth by adding more structure where it was lacking. Once additional tooth structure is added, the black triangle disappears. 

Dental crown being adjusted for size

To have a dental crown placed, your teeth will first need to be prepared by being properly shaped to accommodate the crown. Because dental crowns encapsulate the entire tooth, this means that the entire surface of the tooth will need to be filed down to have a dental crown placed. Once the tooth has been properly shaped, an oral scan or dental impression will be taken of the mouth and sent to a dental laboratory. When the permanent restoration returns, it will be checked for size and then permanently cemented in place. 

Are you sick and tired of looking in the mirror only to see those unsightly black triangles staring back at you? Schedule a consultation with Dr. Sadati of The Sadati Center for Aesthetic Dentistry in Wellington, FL today so we can close those gaps and give you the smile you’ve always wanted!

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