Teeth Shaving: Why Interproximal Reduction Is Part of Orthodontics

Smiles are unique. From person to person, the differences in how our teeth are shaped and spaced give us all a one-of-a-kind appearance. With these smiles, we are able to fully express ourselves, communicate with one another, eat, laugh, and lead fulfilling lives. 

At the same time, these differences also open the way for a wide variety of tooth alignment problems. From aesthetic issues like tooth gaps to health-affecting bite problems, smile problems are plentiful and often occur naturally. Fortunately, quality orthodontic care is easier to find now than ever before.

Thanks to hardware and technology advancements, modern orthodontic treatment is much more comfortable and effective than in decades past. For example:

With these tools, orthodontists are now able to more effectively treat all kinds of alignment problems. Of course, sometimes some extra steps are needed to treat patients with uniquely challenging alignments. Teeth shaving, for instance, is a common requirement for individuals with severe crowding issues. 

Also known as interproximal reduction (IPR), tooth stripping, or polishing, teeth shaving may sound intimidating at first, but in reality it is a quick, painless procedure that leads the way to major smile improvements. In this article, we take a close look at teeth shaving, focusing on how it works, why it’s performed, and when it becomes necessary for the patient. 

IPR 101: What Teeth Shaving Is and How It’s Performed

So, what exactly is IPR? 

Like the term “teeth shaving” implies, IPR is a simple procedure that entails systematically removing a small amount of enamel from the patient’s teeth. In general, the amount of enamel removed during IPR does not exceed 0.1mm and the procedure is completed in a matter of minutes. 

When performing IPR, orthodontists can use a few different methods to shave teeth. Techniques include using:

  • A polishing tool equipped with a small spinning disc to polish off small amounts of enamel.
  • A rough floss-like strip to sand off enamel in between teeth.
  • A bur or drill to remove enamel from the sides of a tooth

Each of these tools is capable of producing high-quality results. Orthodontists often decide which one to use simply based on personal preference. 

Why Orthodontists Shave Teeth

Now that you know how orthodontists shave teeth, you’re probably wondering why orthodontists shave teeth. Like many procedures in orthodontics, the answer varies based on patient treatment needs. 

One of the most common reasons that orthodontists perform IPR is to create more space in the patient’s mouth. Alignment issues like overcrowding and overjet are frequently caused by a discrepancy between the size of teeth and the size of the jaw. When teeth are too big for the jaw, they start to overlap. Similarly, if a patient loses a baby tooth too early, the other teeth move in to fill the space, resulting in a crowded, crooked appearance. 

In severe crowding cases, it can be difficult to find enough space to effectively use braces or Invisalign. With the help of IPR, orthodontists can create more space in between teeth in order to realign them. 

Beyond creating additional space, orthodontists use IPR to:

  • Create a more symmetrical smile appearance
  • Improve bite alignment ratio
  • Eliminate gingival embrasures (i.e. black triangles)

Frequently Asked Questions about Teeth Shaving

At Beverly Hills Orthodontics, we regularly use IPR to enhance the patient experience and make our treatment plans more effective. When we tell patients about IPR, we tend to hear some familiar questions. 

Here are three of the most frequently asked questions about teeth shaving as well as their answers:

FAQ #1: Is Teeth Shaving Painful?

Not at all! Although patients do regularly report small amounts of sensitivity during the procedure, sensitivity quickly dissipates afterward. 

FAQ #2: Do Orthodontic Patients Often Require IPR During Treatment?

Teeth shaving has been a part of orthodontics since the 1980s. While IPR is not necessary for most orthodontic patients, it can greatly benefit patients with severe crowding, especially those interested in Invisalign treatment. If you only have mild-to-moderate crowding/bite problems, IPR likely isn’t required.

FAQ #3: How Do I Know If I Require Teeth Shaving?

The only way to know if teeth shaving is necessary for orthodontic treatment is to visit a professional orthodontist. At Beverly Hills Orthodontics, for example, our team can quickly tell you if teeth shaving is necessary during your first consultation.

Searching for Top-Notch Orthodontic Care in the Greater Los Angeles Area? Beverly Hills Orthodontics Has You Covered 

For decades, teeth shaving has provided a way for orthodontists to more effectively correct severe alignment issues and eliminate bite problems. Although teeth shaving isn’t necessary in all orthodontic cases, it is a quick, pain-free procedure that can greatly benefit patients. At Beverly Hills Orthodontics, we use teeth shaving to ensure that our patients both have a comfortable treatment experience and end up with the healthiest, best-looking smile possible.

With locations in Beverly Hills/Century City, Toluca Lake, Alhambra, and Downtown Los Angeles, Beverly Hills Orthodontics is dedicated to providing top-notch care to the greater Los Angeles area. If you have been considering orthodontic treatment, contact one of our offices today to learn how BHO can improve your smile.