For most of her life, Madison Krause refused to smile with her mouth open. “I felt like a hillbilly, because I had this huge gap between my teeth,” Krause told The Daily Beast. Her friends made jokes about what they could fit in between the space. Krause’s mother refused to let her daughter get braces, saying having the space built “character.”
Today, Krause is a 22-year-old law student in New York, and she’s grateful for her mother’s stubbornness. “When I got to college, I realized it was a big part of who I was and, along with my red hair, really made me stand out,” she said. Krause even called her Instagram handle @GapToothGinger to call attention to her features.
Until recently, Krause could count Dakota Johnson as an ally in her cause. But unfortunately, per an actual Page Six headline that ran last week, “Dakota Johnson’s gap in her teeth is gone, devastating fans.”
The 50 Shades of Grey actress, who once gamely let Vanity Fair staff stuff over $1000 in cash in between her incisors, will no longer feel the same air between her teeth.
“The fact that this is a newsworthy event in our world right now is pretty Chaka Khan to me,” Johnson deflected when asked about the new look on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.
The actress went on to say she had a permanent retainer glued behind her teeth as a teenager, which has caused her “neck problems” as an adult. “My orthodontist decided it would be a good idea to take it off to see if my jaw sort of expanded, and it helped me,” she said. “And my gap closed by itself, and I’m really sad about it, too.”
There may be hope for Johnson yet, as she will get a replacement retainer. “It’s going to come back,” she pledged to those in mourning. “The world of dentistry is so advanced.”
So advanced, in fact, that dentists aren’t just closing spaces in between teeth, but they are making them, too.
“There have been numerous times that patients have come in wanting gaps between their front teeth,” Dr. Ramin Tabib of NYC Smile Design told The Daily Beast. “One reason is because somehow they closed it at some point, and now they want it back.”
But there are other gapless wonders who head to the dentist in search of a hole they never had to begin with. “There are patients now who consider adding a little space because it’s trendy,” Dr. Tabib said. “The Madonna look, I guess.”
Though dentists could theoretically create a space by shaving off sides of the teeth, Dr. Tabib said that is not the “ideal way” to get a gap. “If you take part of the tooth away, you’re not going to ever get it back,” he said.
Dr. Elisa Mello, Dr. Tabib’s wife and practice partner, recommends patients opt for orthodontics like clear aligners, or Invisalign, which are transparent plastic braces that shift teeth together or apart.
“[Your top set of teeth] is a big U-shape,” Dr. Mello explained. “If you want a space in the center, you have to make the U a lot bigger. It not only gives you a gap, but it makes your smile look really full, too, which is always pleasing.”
Dr. Victoria Veytsman, who runs Cosmetic Dental Studios in New York and Beverly Hills, wrote in an email that she would be “reluctant to create a space in natural healthy tooth enamel.” But she has reshaped teeth by adding veneers, or custom porcelain shells, a “handful” of times, mostly for actors or models trying to alter their appearance.
Veneers can be pricey, costing $2800 to $4200 per tooth. Beverly Hills cosmetic dentist Matt Nejad, DDS, once had a contract with a talent agency. He doled out services to models for a slight discount. Over the course of three years, Dr. Nejad saw “two or three” women who wanted to give themselves tooth gaps.
“I was shocked by that request, because one of the big reasons people went to cosmetic dentists in the first place was to fix spaces, so it was interesting to see people who didn’t have a gap wanting one,” Dr. Nejad said. He granted their wishes with Invisalign, which starts around $3,500.
Studies show that people associate conventionally “unattractive” features like snarled teeth with lower intelligence and being unlikeable (blame the Wicked Witch of the West.) To combat this, Dr. Nejad suggests that gapped smiles be otherwise straight and pearly white.
“If everything else is aligned and the only thing that’s catching your attention is the gap, then you’re in the category of that desirable look,” the dentist said. “What you don’t want are teeth that are rotated, flared out, yellowed, and gapped. Then it just looks like you really need dentistry.”
He also recommends keeping the distance between front teeth “small,” ideally two millimeters across. “Your front tooth is about 8 millimeters wide, give or take, so you want the gap to be about a quarter of the size of a tooth, or less.”
Dr. Nejad issued a warning to anyone thinking of pulling a reverse Dakota Johnson: “This isn’t a huge concern, but food does get stuck in the gap,” he said. “It’s also not uncommon for the space to give a different sound to your speech, because more air will pass through there. It’s a thing you can usually learn to work with, but it’s a caveat.”
Most dentists agreed that they would rather have their patients leave with spacious set of teeth than a crowded mouth. “When you’re born with a gap in your front teeth, it’s a good sign that your arch development is ideal,” Dr. Tabib explained. “Your airways are open, you can breathe better, you can sleep better.”
One Chicago-based model who goes by GG (or @Gap_ToothGoddess on Instagram), has always had a space in between her teeth. She was in good company: so did her mother, brother, grandmother, aunts, and uncles.
“I was never going to change it,” GG told The Daily Beast. She felt especially emboldened after watching Danielle Evans win America’s Next Top Model in 2006, gap and all. “It was like an embrace,” GG said. “The confidence I already had boosted from there.”
GG is less enthused with the idea of dentists adding spaces to perfect teeth. “It’s like, I was born with this! This made me who I am,” she said. “Getting a gap put in between teeth takes the uniqueness out of it. It just looks too ‘put there’ as opposed to natural.”