Why Did My Orthodontist Shave My Teeth? Explained Simply

Have you ever wondered why your orthodontist decided to shave your teeth during your braces or alignment treatment? Although it may have come as a surprise, teeth shaving or stripping, also known as inter proximal reduction (IPR) or slenderizing, is a relatively common part of your dental treatment plan. It might not have been your initial expectation, but let’s dive into the reasons behind this dental practice.

Orthodontists might shave a little bit off a few teeth when there is light to moderate crowding. Teeth shaving creates extra space between each tooth contact, allowing for a more efficient alignment process with braces or aligners.

Stripping helps in achieving straight teeth without extracting them, and since most patients want to avoid extractions nowadays, it has become an increasingly popular procedure among orthodontists.

So if you’re curious why orthodontists shave teeth what tools they use, side effects, and other frequently asked questions, keep reading.

Why Did My Orthodontist Shave My Teeth (Quick Answer)

Your orthodontist may have shaved your teeth for mainly two reasons. The most common reason is to correct overcrowding. Dental shaving, or stripping as it’s commonly called, can create up to extra 4mm of space, which may not seem like a lot, but it’s enough to alleviate minor to moderate crowding and avoid braces side effects such as flared teeth.

Expect your orthodontist to mostly shave your front teeth, but if you have a lot of crowding, they might strip your teeth all the way to the back to gain more space. Another advantage of slenderizing front teeth is that it speeds up tooth alignment in that area, therefore shortening treatment time.

The second reason for tooth shaving is enamel reshaping. This process, also known as enameloplasty, involves filing, shaving, contouring, or reshaping the teeth to create a more uniform appearance. It’s a relatively quick and straightforward procedure that leads to a great looking smile and it’s mainly done for cosmetic purposes.

When reshaping your teeth, your orthodontist will most likely flatten an irregular tooth edge, or smooth out a sharp canine tip. Some teeth may require bonding (building up part of the tooth with composite), in addition to reshaping, to make them look more uniform.

When talking about tooth shaving, however, most patients refer to the practice or stripping, or removing enamel from the sides of the teeth, so this is what we’re going to focus on in this article.

Why Are Teeth Shaved? Dental Stripping Explained

If you’ve seen your orthodontist use thin abrasive strips that look like sandpaper, or an oscillating instrument in between your teeth, it was probably a quick stripping session. Keep reading to learn more about why and how we do this.

Manual stripping Source

What Is Stripping and How It’s Done

Dental stripping, also known as interproximal reduction (IPR) or teeth shaving, is a procedure performed by orthodontists to create more space between your teeth. The process trims some (but not too much) of the enamel layer on the sides of your teeth, allowing your dentist to correct crowding issues and improve alignment.

During the procedure, your orthodontist will use a thin metal strip or a special grinding tool to gently shave away small amounts of enamel.

If you need a maximum amount of stripping, some orthodontists may use a fine bur or a disc in between your teeth, although these days, special hand piece tools designed specifically for stripping are much more effective and accurate.

Inter Proximal Reduction / Stripping Source

Once the stripping is complete, your orthodontist will polish the sides of your teeth so that the enamel isn’t left abrasive and exposed.

When Do Patients Need Stripping

You might need dental stripping if you experience:

  • Crowded teeth, which can lead to difficulty in cleaning, potential tooth decay, or gum problems
  • Overjet or tilted incisors, when we need the space to pull them back
  • Triangular shaped teeth that are too wide and will create black triangles once aligned

Your orthodontist will measure the overlap between your teeth and determine how much crowding you have. If you have light to moderate crowding that doesn’t exceed 8mm, you might be a candidate for dental stripping.

Stripping is done to avoid extractions, so if your crowding case is severe (typically over 10mm), then extractions are your best bet, since there’s a strict limit to how much enamel we can remove from teeth without damaging them.

Another reason for shaving teeth, also known as slenderizing, is to change their shape from triangular to rectangular so that your front teeth will align better and avoid those displeasing black triangles between your front teeth.

Will You Need Stripping with Invisalign?

If you’re planning to get Invisalign or are already in the process of wearing your aligners, you should know that tooth shaving is a common practice for Invisalign patients. This is because many of the planned orthodontic movements require a very specific amount of space in certain areas.

Stripping empowers orthodontists to create that extra space with precision and allows aligners to work in a controlled and efficient manner.

Most orthodontists using aligners will strive to avoid extractions if at all possible, so stripping has become very common and expected during Invisalign treatments.

Will You Need Stripping with Braces?

Both aligners and braces create space between your teeth not only through stripping but also through expansion of the dental arches. Braces and self-ligating braces are particularly efficient at expanding arches, so not all patients will need stripping while wearing braces.

Creating extra space between your teeth allows for proper alignment as the braces work their magic. So, depending on the severity of crowding and your specific treatment plan, your orthodontist may recommend dental stripping before or during your braces treatment.

Side Effects of Shaving Teeth

You’re probably wondering if shaving your teeth will be painful and whether there will be side effects. Fear not, we’ll cover everything there is to know about the health of your teeth during and after stripping.

When shaving your teeth, you might feel some slight discomfort, but since your orthodontist is only touching the outer layer of your enamel, you shouldn’t feel any pain. Some stripping procedures require access all the way down into the gum, so expect some bleeding, especially if you have swollen or puffy gums.

Will the Teeth Recover?

Teeth shaving, or stripping, may be a harmless practice that has withstood the test of time, but, like any dental procedure, there can be some side effects.

One concern you might have is whether your teeth will recover after being shaved. The outermost layer of your teeth, the enamel, doesn’t regenerate once it’s removed. But don’t worry too much, as stripping only removes a small amount of enamel, and your teeth should remain strong and healthy if proper care is taken.

Your enamel will be thinner in some areas, but it has the capacity of sealing itself back using calcium and fluoride from your saliva, so be sure to use a fluoride toothpaste and mouthwash in your dental hygiene routine.

If you experience sensitivity or pain after the procedure, it just means that your enamel is more porous. It’s not necessarily a sign that your orthodontist removed too much of it. If this happens, use a toothpaste for sensitive teeth and avoid consuming hot or cold food and drinks for a few days.

Did The Orthodontist Shave Too Much Off Your Teeth?

In some cases, you might feel like the orthodontist removed too much enamel from your teeth. A good orthodontist will be cautious to avoid over-shaving, and an X-ray is typically taken before the orthodontic treatment to determine the appropriate amount of enamel removal.

The width of a tooth can safely be reduced between 0.2 to 0.5 mm, which is significantly less than most patients imagine.

Orthodontists also use a special measuring tool to assess how many millimetres of space were created through stripping, so usually, we find that we remove too little, rather than too much.

If you have triangular teeth and your orthodontist has filed them into a rectangular shape, it might come as a shock to you that your teeth are now much more narrow. This can happen sometimes, and in some cases it’s best to resort to bonding, or even veneers to correct the shape of these teeth.

However, if you feel your orthodontist removed too much or made your teeth uneven, it’s essential to discuss your concerns with them. They’ll be able to address the issue and, if necessary, make adjustments to your treatment plan or offer cosmetic dentistry to correct the problem.

Asking Permission (My Ortho Shaved My Teeth Without Telling Me)

You might wonder why your orthodontist shaved your teeth without discussing it with you first. This isn’t ideal, and you’re absolutely right to be upset.

Communication between you and your orthodontist is crucial to ensure the success of your treatment. Your orthodontist should make it a priority to explain each step of the process, including any procedures such as teeth shaving, that might be necessary. They should also provide you with information about potential risks or side effects associated with these procedures.

Sometimes orthodontists run a quick strip through the patient’s teeth to alleviate some tension and make no room, and we don’t generally consider that a big deal. However, if your orthodontist changed the shape of your tooth or narrowed it from the sides without telling you, this is not a good sign, especially when we’re talking about visible front teeth.

When your orthodontist shaves your teeth without asking for permission or informing you beforehand, it can lead to:

  • Confusion and frustration on your part, especially if you were unaware of this step in your treatment plan
  • Potential discomfort if the procedure was not done properly or if you did not anticipate the after-effects
  • Feeling left out of the decision-making process regarding your orthodontic treatment

It’s important to have a sense of autonomy as an orthodontic patient, because it can be such a long and sometimes nerve-wracking journey. So try to be assertive and ask questions whenever you need to know more.


While it’s normal to be concerned about enamel removal, remember that your orthodontist is an experienced professional who’s working to give you the best possible dental outcome. Rest assured, they will only perform the teeth shaving procedure when it’s necessary for your dental progress.

Remember that you may experience tooth sensitivity following tooth reshaping due to the removal of some enamel, but it’s generally not a painful process. If you take great care of your teeth throughout your lifetime, tooth shaving shouldn’t impact the longevity and health of your teeth.

Whether you’re new to braces or a braces veteran, taking care of your teeth and gums during orthodontic treatment is crucial. That’s why I’ve put together a list of orthodontist-recommended tools that will make caring for your braces a breeze:

  • An awesome mid-range electric toothbrush. Rotating electric brushes are much more effective, in my opinion, than sonic ones. You can keep your teeth white by using whitening replacement heads.
  • A countertop water flosser to blast out food debris between teeth. I know handheld models are tempting, but you’ll need a lot of water. You can almost replace flossing with this and your gums will be healthier.
  • Braces accessories to get into all the nooks and crannies: straight or angled interdental brushes, floss threaders, orthodontic wax or silicone. For pain management, have gel ice packs handy, Orajel, and Mouth Magic (a cool soothing solution for mouth sores).
  • For clear aligner patients, a tool like PUL helps both remove and seat your aligner or retainer. Don’t forget to use a cleaning product like crystals to keep your trays fresh and hygienic.

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