What is IPR?

IPR is short for ‘interproximal reduction’. It’s a technique that involves carefully removing small amounts of enamel from between your teeth to reduce their width. IPR is sometimes necessary during orthodontic treatment to create the space needed to straighten crowded teeth and improve your bite.

In some cases, IPR can avoid the need for us to extract teeth – another (less popular) way of creating additional space. It can also be used to subtly improve the shape of your teeth and achieve a more uniform appearance.

We’ll usually let you know before you start orthodontic treatment whether you’ll need IPR. However, tooth movement isn’t always predictable, and we may recommend IPR during your treatment to give you the best possible outcome.

How is IPR carried out?

IPR can be performed in a few different ways. If we are only removing a very thin layer of enamel, we will do this by hand using a file. If more needs to be taken away we will use a polishing disc. The process is completely pain free and the most you’ll feel is some vibration.

Your enamel doesn’t contain any nerves, so there’s no need for any anaesthetic – it’s much like filing a nail. It’s also very quick and takes just a few minutes per tooth. During the treatment we’ll use a gauge to measure the gap between your teeth, to make sure we’ve taken away just the right amount. After removing the enamel, the newly filed edge of your tooth is polished to create a smooth surface that is more resistant to plaque.

Occasionally, we may need to fit small elastic bands between your teeth a week or so before your IPR to separate them slightly. These can make your teeth feel slightly achy for a few days.

Is it safe to remove tooth enamel?

Enamel is the protective layer of your teeth, so it’s sensible to question whether it’s safe to remove some of it. Because IPR involves removing very small amounts of enamel – usually just 10ths of a millimetre – it’s very safe and shouldn’t affect the health of your teeth or gums in any way.

For most patients it’s a far less invasive and more appealing alternative to removing teeth. The worst you can expect is temporary sensitivity to hot and cold food and drink. This shouldn’t last longer than a few days.

You also don’t need to worry about the gaps between your teeth being too noticeable. They won’t be there for long, and we can even carry out your IPR over several appointments so it’s less visible.

Is IPR needed for Invisalign® treatment?

Invisalign is a clear, removable brace that can be used to treat a wide range of orthodontic problems. Because of its discreetness and convenience, it’s a popular choice among adult patients who just want to improve the appearance of their front teeth.

In these cases, the front teeth are usually crowded, and to straighten them we need more space. IPR not only creates this space, but it can also result in more stable contact points between your front teeth, i.e. more of your tooth’s surface is in contact with the neighbouring tooth. This also helps to reduce the size of ‘black triangles’ – small gaps between your teeth and gumline.

Is everyone suitable for IPR?

The majority of patients are suitable for IPR. However, it’s usually not recommended if you have poor oral hygiene, small amounts of interproximal enamel or very rectangular teeth.

If you have any more questions about IPR, give our friendly team a call on 020 3393 6640.