Teeth Shaving for Invisalign – Do You Need To?

Shaving teeth or filing them down to fix overcrowding is a rather common practice in orthodontic treatment with Invisalign. When done correctly, it does not pose any hazards. If your teeth require contouring and reshaping in order to fit in appropriately with the rest of your teeth, you may be a potential candidate for teeth shaving.

To understand how teeth shaving for Invisalign works, read on.

What is Teeth Shaving for Invisalign?

The technical term for teeth shaving referred to by orthodontists is Interproximal Reduction or IPR. It has other names like Slenderizing, Air Rotor Stripping (ARS), or Reproximation. Filing between your teeth using an electric or hand file removes the enamel from between the teeth.

This helps in reshaping the contact area between teeth. This is particularly used when your crowded teeth are not entirely rectangular. Shaving them slightly ensures that when the teeth move into their final positions, they fit together well.

How much enamel is removed can depend from case to case. The orthodontist can now accurately predict the amount of enamel to be removed with IPR, thanks to the advancements in digital technology.

Most orthodontists use software models to decide the amount of teeth shaving required to achieve ideal results. Your orthodontist will shave off a small amount of enamel, depending on your treatment plan. It is usually a fraction of a millimeter. So, the gaps left after the shaving will hardly be noticeable. The purpose of shaving is to ensure that your teeth look aesthetically pleasing once they move into their positions.

When is Teeth Shaving for Invisalign Done?

Teeth shaving is scheduled depending on your treatment goals and is not fixed. Some patients get Interproximal Reduction while using their first set of trays. Others may be prescribed after the first set of trays or right before they get their refinements.

Refinement aligners are additional aligners that you may need if one or more teeth are less responsive and don’t shift as anticipated. Refinements ensure that your teeth are fully on track.

Does Tooth Shaving for Invisalign Hurt?

Interproximal Reduction should not hurt. What your orthodontist does is shave off a bit of the enamel that is on the surface of the tooth. It may only cause some mild discomfort. It doesn’t penetrate the deeper layers of the tooth that are connected to the nerve tissue, like the pulp or the root.

For this reason, shaving is done without the help of local anesthesia. If necessary, numbing medication is administered. This eliminates any minor discomfort and helps the patient relax during the procedure.

How is Teeth Shaving Done?

Instruments used

Interproximal Reduction is commonly done manually using the following:

  • Diamond strips: A diamond strip is a piece of metal that is slender enough to fit between your teeth and is flexible so that it can be maneuvered easily. The orthodontist will move it in a back-and-forth fashion to scrape off the enamel.
  • Drill: A drill has a round bur or disk coated with a diamond that spins to shave the teeth. In either case, you could feel only a slight vibration resulting from the instrument rubbing against your tooth. Which method is chosen will depend on the amount of tooth enamel that needs shaving.

Step 1: Choose the preferred instrument

For very tiny amounts, your orthodontist will shave the enamel manually using the diamond-coated abrasive strips in order to have the greatest control over the amount of enamel removed. For fairly larger amounts of slicing, they will opt for a dental drill.

If the tooth that is being shaved is crooked, the dentist will need to create a separation using a wedge or a dental clamp to eliminate the obstruction and access the tooth. The tooth will be sprayed with water to keep it cool and dust off the excess enamel.

Step 2: Recording the trim

Your dentist will measure and document the gap created by inserting a small gauge or dental probe between your teeth. Once the gap is wide enough, they’ll record this measurement in your dental chart. This ensures that the gap created is just the right width.

Step 3: Smoothening the edges

Once your orthodontist is satisfied with the procedure, they will buff the raw edges of the tooth. The polishing is done using another instrument similar to the abrasive strip or drill, except this one will have a much sleeker grit.

Step 4: Finishing touches

It is important to protect the tooth after the trimming and polishing. So, your orthodontist will administer fluoride or some other compound with similar properties on the tooth surface after the stripping process. This strengthens the shaved tooth and helps promote remineralization.

Will the Gaps be Noticeable after Teeth Shaving for Invisalign?

After completion of the IPR treatment, you will most likely notice small spaces between your teeth. Which is the whole point of IPR in the first place. But they won’t be as evident as these gaps will be very small.

As your treatment progresses and the teeth adjust, these gaps will shrink until they fully close.

Side Effects

Initially, people find the idea of shaving teeth to make space for adjustments during the Invisalign treatment a little intense and might cause some to freak out. But as stated earlier, teeth shaving is a relatively painless procedure and is designed to work for you, not against you.

Nevertheless, research conducted suggests that it may be riskier to perform IPR on a weak or damaged tooth. Your orthodontist should perform a complete dental evaluation before starting your treatment.

The procedure generally does not pose any significant risk to healthy teeth. Tooth contouring for Invisalign treatment is regarded as a common approach. If done correctly, Interproximal Reduction is safe and does not harm your gums.

Also, there are no studies to prove that shaved teeth are more prone to decay or periodontal diseases. If you are still unsure of this procedure, then it is best to speak to your orthodontist and consider your Invisalign options.


Teeth shaving for Invisalign is meant to re-contour and reshape your teeth. It will eventually help align your teeth perfectly so that they fit in and work well together and give you that coveted smile.

Teeth Shaving for Invisalign – Do You Need To?