Tooth crowding is a fairly common problem which, in the past, left orthodontists with little option but to extract those unwanted teeth to create the space needed to realign the crooked culprits and create that perfect smile.
Thankfully, these days, there is another safe and effective option, which is way less drastic! Usually combined with Invisalign or braces, orthodontists can now treat some overcrowding cases with interproximal reduction (IPR).
In IPR, the orthodontist uses a dental drill or specialized sanding strips to accurately remove a maximum of 0.5 mm of the outer surface of the tooth, known as the enamel, between the teeth. This technique is used to make space for crowded teeth or to change the size of specific teeth to improve the bite, and is the safest and most effective way of aligning teeth without actually extracting the teeth.
These are the common questions our patients ask us when IPR is suggested as part of their treatment plan:
Does IPR weaken my teeth and make them more prone to cavities?
If the thought of having your teeth ‘filed back’ a little makes you worry about getting more cavities, fear not! Studies show that IPR does not make teeth more susceptible to tooth decay, nor does it increase your chance of gum disease.
Will I lose enamel? Will my pearly whites still look the same?
Yes, you will lose a small amount of enamel between the teeth, but this is perfectly safe. A tooth has two layers (enamel and dentin) – the enamel being the hard part and the dentin the soft part. There is an average of 2.5 mm of enamel thickness between each tooth, therefore having 0.25 mm stripped away is completely safe.
Is this going to hurt?
No, IPR does not hurt one bit! Numbing is not even required. Enamel does not have any nerve sensation, so it is completely painless. The only uncomfortable part is for those with sensitive ears who hate the sound of a drill.
Therefore, when an orthodontist tells you that you need IPR – don’t fret! It is a routine method used to help align teeth, create better esthetics and a better bite. If you don’t believe me, I did it to myself!