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Much like solving a puzzle, getting teeth to fit together is an orthodontist’s ultimate goal. Accomplishing this requires implementing a technique known as an interproximal reduction (IPR), which entails stripping the teeth to make them the right shape. Sometimes tooth extractions are necessary, but IPR is the most logical option to resolve the discrepancy.

IPR removes the enamel from between the teeth at a practical level and is a useful treatment option when reshaping the area between teeth. It was first recorded in a 1944 paper before gaining popularity in the 1980s when John J. Sheridan introduced the Air Rotor Stripping technique. Sheridan explained how IPR was an alternative to extractions or tooth expansion and was beneficial in improving the appearance of the anterior teeth.

While interproximal reduction is viewed as a routine procedure, it requires skilled and experienced hands to perform it. That’s why patients would do well to find an experienced orthodontist to handle the procedure and explain the side effects associated with it. As Jonathan Alexander Abt – a registered specialist in orthodontics – knows, patients need to understand what’s involved before going ahead with IPR. Removing too much enamel can have a harmful effect on tooth health.

The Procedure

During IPR, the enamel can be removed using an abrasive strip to file it away, a drill with a rotating disc, or a fine dental bur. The procedure takes a few minutes to accomplish and, depending on the type of issue being addressed, can take one or multiple visits to complete.

Understandably, patients will want to know before whether the process is painful. As enamel is the material that makes up the outer shell of the teeth, it is not connected to any nerves, so no pain is generated by IPR. No anaesthetic is used during the procedure, but patients might feel a little discomfort on their teeth as the enamel is removed.

In some cases, small rubber rings called separators are inserted between the teeth before the procedure is carried out. These rings help to create temporary space to make the process easier.

Side Effects

A common fear brought about by the removal of enamel is the likelihood of exposing the teeth to quicker decay. However, as the orthodontist only removes a minimum amount of the coating, each tooth will be left with a sufficient enamel layer to keep it strong and healthy. Orthodontists can also apply a temporary fluoride varnish to help the enamel repair itself after the procedure.