What is a dental IPR (interproximal reduction) and how is it used in orthodontics?

09 June · 4 minutes

IPR is a common procedure that takes place either just before or in the middle of a patient’s orthodontic treatment. To learn more about IPR and how it’s used, read on!

What is an IPR and what does it stand for?

IPR stands for interproximal reduction and it’s a technique that reduces the size of teeth in preparation for orthodontic treatment. You might have also heard of this procedure referred to as tooth or dental stripping which is also a commonly used name. This method is an effective way to create more space, and is only performed on patients who require it.

Patients that have a moderate degree of teeth crowding are the typical candidates for IPR. The procedure entails reducing the teeth’s width by about 0.2 to 0.5 millimeters. The sides of the teeth are slimmed to create space for them to adjust into their correct positioning - making the smile more aesthetically pleasing. Patients that have severe crowding may have to consider extracting some teeth.

What is interproximal reduction used for?

Although IPR has a number of different orthodontic functions, its main goal is to create more space by reducing the width of the teeth, thus avoiding extractions and aligning the smile with the natural structure of the patient’s mouth.

Arch enlargement

The primary purpose of IPR is to make space within the dental arches so that the orthodontic devices, such as braces or aligners, can do their job. For patients with medium dental crowding, IPR is a good option, because it works best in cases where only small gaps are needed to move the teeth to their correct positions. This procedure allows patients to retain their full set of teeth and avoid extractions.

Interproximal reductions are also used to help eliminate black spaces that can appear after orthodontic treatment. Black spaces are the small triangles that sometimes form between teeth near the gums. So, by reducing the width of the teeth, it gives the gums the room they need to grow and cover the black space.

Specialist explaining what interproximal reduction is

Incisor protrusion

It’s also common to use IPR dental procedures to reduce incisor protrusion. This is when the upper incisors sit in front of the lower incisors when we bite down. Reducing the size of the upper lateral incisors when they’re disproportional to the lower incisors, is the most recommended option, and it's done by using the stripping technique. This condition is also known as a Bolton discrepancy.

Interproximal reduction vs tooth extraction

Above we briefly mentioned the difference between interproximal reduction vs tooth extraction and it’s a frequent concern among patients. IPR is designed to evade the need for extraction before braces or aligners. By shrinking the tooth by a few millimeters, the orthodontist gains enough space to work with to reposition the teeth. Extractions are usually used in cases with more complexity and severe crowding.

When are IPR dental procedures performed?

The orthodontist may need to perform an IPR on certain teeth in order for you to achieve the best aesthetic result from your braces or aligners. This is a less invasive method than extraction, but it depends upon the patient’s individual needs and the characteristics of their dental health. It can be a practical way of solving the spatial problems in orthodontic treatment, plus it helps the orthodontist do their job.

IPR dental procedures are performed when Bolton discrepancy occurs, which is, as we mentioned, when the upper incisor is positioned outside the lower incisor. They’re also necessary when you want to simulate the natural wear of the teeth, deal with any skeletal deformity or, most commonly, to create gaps when positioning teeth.

Which dental patients require IPR?

IPR is only recommended to patients who require a small amount of extra space in their dental arches. Only those with moderate crowding should use this method to solve their spatial problems.

This is a very common procedure in adult patients who have orthodontics, regardless of the type. Anyone with medium dental crowding and limited space for movement, can benefit from IPR during their orthodontic treatment, so that they can achieve a perfect smile.

Orthodontist evaluating the a patient’s oral health

Interproximal reduction pros and cons

As with any other dental procedure, interproximal reduction has a few pros and cons. IPR is usually very efficient in solving space problems and, if it is performed by a qualified professional, the procedure shouldn't cause major problems. However, if you go to a clinic and the dentist or orthodontist does not have the necessary knowledge, it can be risky. A person who is unqualified could remove excessive enamel and the patient may face future problems. In order to avoid this, it is essential to visit a specialist with experience in dental stripping.

The side effects of teeth stripping

Patients who require IPR or teeth stripping may experience some side effects. In the treated teeth, it can cause increased sensitivity, and loss of healthy layers of the teeth. Because of this, some patients have reported that IPR does hurt, but normally only slightly and temporarily.

Additionally, it can only be performed on patients with perfect oral hygiene. It’s also necessary to measure the level of enamel that can be removed without affecting the stripping process.

Teeth before and after interproximal reduction (IPR)

Understanding the before and after of interproximal reduction, or of any other procedure, is important. In the case of your teeth before and after IPR, here’s want you can expect:

Before IPR is performed, the specialist needs to carry out a series of evaluations to understand the condition of each individual tooth. Since each tooth doesn’t have the same level of enamel, they need to reduce it by around 0.25 millimeters. Then after the procedure, the orthodontist polishes any rough areas to avoid cavities.

You should take into account that an increased sensitivity to temperature after the procedure is normal. That’s why dentists advise against consuming cold drinks and recommend special toothpaste.

Diagram illustrating how IPR works

Do I need interproximal reduction?

At Impress, your health is our priority. That’s why we offer a completely free consultation where we have a look at your smile and offer you a full diagnosis, including whether or not you’ll need IPR.

Come on in and visit us and find out all you need to know before starting a clear orthodontics treatment. Get in touch with us by calling (888) 490 1421 or via WhatsApp, email support.us@smile2impress.com or book you first consultation online.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Does interproximal reduction hurt?

In short, interproximal reduction doesn't hurt. When the procedure is performed by a professional who understands all the techniques, IPR doesn’t hurt the patient. It’s up to the specialist to perform the necessary tests in advance to know exactly how much enamel can be reduced. Our enamel doesn’t have any nerve endings, so the removal shouldn’t cause any pain. But sometimes the patients feel discomfort from the force applied during the reduction, which is why local anesthesia can be used before starting the procedure.

Is interproximal reduction safe?

IPR should always be performed by an experienced and qualified professional to ensure your safety.

How long does it take to close IPR gaps?

It can take anywhere between a couple weeks to a few months. It all depends on how much space was created and how many movements are required to close the gaps.

Does IPR pose any risk to oral health or can it damage teeth?

IPR should never pose any serious risk or cause any damage to the teeth. This procedure should always be performed by a professional to avoid risks or problems. When executed properly, IPR is only a minor procedure that can help solve major problems during orthodontic treatment. The process of reducing enamel to create space for teeth repositioning shouldn’t ever cause any problems to our oral health - only when it’s done incorrectly. In that case, it could potentially cause cavities and excessive tooth sensitivity.


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