What do these people have in common: Laurence Fishburne, Natalie Cole, Madonna, David Letterman, and Lauren Hutton?
They each have a highly distinctive physical characteristic: an immediately identifiable gap in their front teeth. And like other stars and famous people -- Jorja Fox, Eddie Murphy, and Condoleezza Rice, Bobbi Kristina Brown, and Vanessa Paradis -- and numerous private citizens whose names are not in bright lights, these notables proudly show their diastema, the medical term for a space between two teeth.
Some have gaps so unusually large -- Paradis and Brown for example -- that observers may wonder why they don't get them fixed.
Whether or not they do, of course, is an individual choice. Dr. Jan Bosserman, a Toledo dentist, offers some patients needing replacement teeth the option of closing a gap, but it's not always accepted.
"It's kind of a personal thing as to whether they keep it or not," he said. "I have patients who, when they lost their teeth, wanted that space included in their dentures or whatever replacement they have. Everyone's idea of beauty is different."
Gaps between the teeth do not pose a health concern, Dr. Bosserman said.
"All it is is a space between the two teeth, and that would have no health implications."
Realistically, though, when a space is exceptionally wide, there are treatments to narrow it. Members of the dental profession use caution when narrowing those gaps. If too much bonding is added to the two front teeth, the final result could be teeth that are much too large.
"If it's a small space -- and some people have a really small space -- you can bond a tooth color composite to it," Dr. Bosserman said.
If the space is somewhat larger, "You can do veneers to close that space," he said.
Sometimes, though, for a more attractive smile, the option might be to also put veneers on the two front teeth and on the lateral incisors -- those teeth immediately next to the ones directly in the front -- to keep everything in proportion.
Despite the vast number of stars who have diastema, Dr. Bosserman has never had patients say they wanted to keep a gap because some famous people have them.
Just like some people have brown or green eyes, full or thin lips, or some other physical trait that is specifically theirs, many decide to keep the gaps.
"They tell me that they happen to like it," Dr. Bosserman said. "It's a unique character of their own. It's a part of them."
Contact Rose Russell at firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6178.