Interproximal reduction is a procedure in which a dentist strips off a portion of tooth enamel in order to reduce the size of the tooth. The tooth that the procedure is performed on would normally be touching another tooth, if the teeth were in proper alignment. Interproximal reduction can help create optimal tooth alignment by widening the space in between teeth slightly. The term interproximal reduction was made popular by Invisalign, but it is also sometimes referred to as “Air Rotor Stripping,” “tooth stripping,” or “interdental reduction.”
Interproximal reduction is used when tooth crowding is an issue that needs to be addressed. After the tooth is slenderized, the patient’s teeth can be aligned with fewer complications. Orthodontists will carefully consider a patient’s facial and mouth structure and specific orthodontic issues to decide whether an orthodontic reduction is the best option for creating space between the teeth.
There are other procedures that can help to create space in between teeth, such as palatal expansion, tooth extraction, or orthodontic surgery. Interproximal reduction can help patients retain all of their teeth and avoid painful and unnecessary surgeries. In cases where patients have abnormally shaped teeth or “black triangles” between the teeth caused by missing gum tissue, interproximal reduction can reduce the appearance of these issues and improve the look of the patient’s teeth and smile. Interproximal reduction also allows the teeth to retain more stability than other procedures that move the teeth, which may help the teeth stay in alignment longer with less orthodontic work.
Orthodontists may use a diamond-coated strip or a dental drill to strip away the tooth enamel. If a large amount of tooth needs to be stripped away, the dental drill will be used. If a small amount of enamel needs to be stripped or the area that needs to be stripped is irregular in shape, the diamond-coated strip may be used. Diamond-coated strips are flexible and are used by placing the strip on the side of the tooth and moving it back and forth to manually strip away the enamel. This allows greater precision than dental drills.
The interproximal reduction procedure is not painful, but may be slightly uncomfortable. No anesthetic is required, but patients will feel the tool moving between the teeth to remove enamel. The procedure does not require downtime afterwards and is much easier to recover from than most other methods used to create space in between the teeth.