“Why did you keep yours?” asked Rachel Lindsay, the most recent Bachelorette, on her first date with Peter Krause. She was referring to the gap in his teeth—an endearing trait that they both shared and bonded over, and it went on to spark a love story that had every viewer rooting for the two (which made the controversial finale even more heartbreaking, but we won’t get into that). “In high school, my dentist was like, ‘Look, if you want to fix it, you can; honestly I don’t think you should. I think it adds character and you should keep it,’” Lindsay said about her decision. “And I said, ‘You know what? I like that and I’m going to roll with that.’”
Having gap teeth isn’t a new concept at all, with Madonna and Elton John being the firsts in the music industry to really embrace theirs. And on the fashion front, Lauren Hutton and Vanessa Paradis were the OG supers who spearheaded the then-novel idea of imperfection at a time when perfection was demanded from models. But the difference between now and then is our attitude—having gap teeth has evolved from a flaw that needed to be fixed, to a feature that was merely tolerated, to something that’s to be desired. The roster of in-demand, gap-tooth models, including Georgia May Jagger, Lily Aldridge, Lara Stone, Jessica Hart, Lindsey Wixson, and Abby Lee Kershaw, speaks to this shift. And when model Adwoa Aboah launched her girl-power platform Gurls Talk, she chose a gap-tooth smile as its logo.
Megan Collins, a trend forecaster at Trendera, says the recent popularity of gap teeth can be traced back to a viral Lara Stone-inspired watercolor print in 2013 that was pinned and re-blogged countless times over.
“This print represented makeup, beauty, and lipstick, but there’s gap teeth—so that was when gap teeth was seen as beautiful,” she explains. “I definitely think it’s part of a larger trend of embracing flaws—we’re seeing a backlash against perfection, specifically with Gen Z-ers who aren’t reading magazines because they understand that’s not a representation of what they should be aspiring to. The people they aspire to be are YouTubers, everyday, real people with visible flaws, who are just like them.”
And it’s affected how brands are currently casting for models. While there hasn’t been any specific asks for gap teeth, there’s a spike in demand for real, relatable women.
“For the millennial crowd, it’s about realness and nothing too avant-garde—something that’s more real, but still pretty. This real-people trend that’s coming out of YouTube and reality shows is a really popular way of casting right now,” says Chadrian McKnight, who’s been the managing director of House Casting at Milk for eight years. But even though gap teeth may not be trending in the casting world, he says nobody’s going out of their way to fix them. In fact, McKnight says, if anything, gap teeth will benefit a model who’s trying to make it in the industry. “It makes you unique, it makes you stand out,” he continues. “They have to be beautiful, but with a unique smile, it elevates them to the next level.”
Of course, in today’s social media-driven society, that wish to stand out isn’t exclusive to models—everyone feels it. “People are tying their identity to certain things about themselves—it’s a part of their brand, and the more unique you are, the better your brand,” Collins says. “The worst thing is being basic, and it’s easier to be influential when you’re not subscribing to societal norms. If you’re perfect, you’re boring. If you’re ‘flawed,’ you’re more interesting and more likely to gain a following.”
People are embracing their gaps, yes, but as for whether people creating gaps? Not so much. Dr. Mazen Natour, a Manhattan-based prosthodontist, says in his 17 years of practice, he hasn’t had someone come in asking for a gap. However, for patients who have needed restoration, they’ve requested that he maintain their gap, rather than close it. But that’s not to say that creating a gap is impossible.
“It’s possible, but you have to be careful, because you cannot just make a gap out of nowhere,” Natour explains. “One option is to push teeth, if there’s room and that’s a long procedure—several months of orthodontic work. You have to make sure you can do it without make any permanent damage. Another option is to take a burr and cut into the two central teeth to create a gap, but you have to carefully study the proportion and size, and that might involve veneers or crowns. Cutting teeth also reduces the enamel, and those teeth might be sensitive if you cut too much. It’s one thing to enhance or restore damaged teeth, but for someone to say, ‘Damage my teeth,’ it’s an unusual request.”
At the end of the day, Natour says having gap teeth depends on the person, their face, and their confidence. Zac Efron and Elisabeth Moss both closed their gaps, but Jessica Paré (his favorite actress) kept hers. “She has gaps everywhere and it’s a part of her charm—she looks great with gaps,” Natour says. “More people in Hollywood are keeping their gaps, and it might follow in the general population.”
And if people are faking freckles, as Collins pointed out, then perhaps the gap-tooth trend might not be long behind. “People are going of their way to pretend they have a flaw they don’t have,” Collins says. “So while the orthodontist might be seeing anyone ask for gap teeth, I wouldn’t be surprised if there are people out there who think it will be cool, even when it was something that was previously seen as ‘not cool.’ We’re seeing a lot less body negativity. Now it’s: Society needs to accept me as I am.”