IPR (Interproximal Reduction)
Interproximal reduction (IPR) is a quick and easy procedure during which Dr. Kathy uses some very precise tools to change the shape and size of your teeth, primarily on the sides where they touch each other. This is done for three reasons.
First, the upper or lower sets of teeth may be naturally the wrong size and don’t fit together well. Second, the shape of individual teeth may not allow them to lay next to each other ideally. This can adversely affect the appearance of a smile even though the bite may fit perfectly. Third, IPR is used in cases of mild crowding so that the removal of teeth can be avoided. Using very thin diamond encrusted tools, Dr.Kathy can polish away small amounts of enamel to help your teeth fit better. This is a quick, painless procedure than can be done without anesthesia. Not only does it solve the size problem, it is a far more permanent solution than adding artificial materials to the natural teeth in the smaller arch.
The second time your orthodontist may use interproximal reduction during your treatment is when you have teeth shaped such that they don’t lie next to each other very well. This is most obvious in the front part of the mouth where two triangular shaped teeth are touching near the biting edges but there are triangular-shaped spaces closer to the gum line. These are sometimes called “dark triangles.” The presence of dark triangles is determined by the shape of the teeth and the height of the gums between them. Your dentist can tell you how much each of these two variables contributes to your situation and if using IPR will improve the appearance of your smile. The last reason for using IPR is when there is too much crowding to align the teeth as they are, but not enough to justify removing any.
This procedure is a key part of aligner therapy (Invisalign) where crowding problems are usually only mild to moderate and removing teeth is not desired. Interproximal reduction not only reduces crowding, it also creates smooth, flat surfaces that keep the teeth straight better after the braces have come off. Substantial amounts of space can be created by removing only tiny amounts of tooth structure from multiple teeth. If only ¼ mm of enamel is polished from each side of the six lower front teeth, the total amount of space created is 3mm! Research supports the use of interproximal reduction by showing no increased decay on the altered surfaces, greater stability after treatment, and no increase in sensitivity when the amount of enamel removed is kept within reasonable limits.