Recontouring or reshaping the teeth (also called odontoplasty, enameloplasty, stripping, or slenderizing) is a procedure in which small amounts of tooth enamel are removed to change a tooth's length, shape, or surface. The procedure is usually done to improve appearance by creating more harmony or balance in the look of the smile.
Recontouring is the most conservative cosmetic treatment. It is a quick and painless procedure whose results can be seen immediately.
Who Should Consider Recontouring?
Recontouring is an effective method to correct minor imperfections, such as:
- Fixing small chips
- Smoothing out bulges or pits in a tooth's enamel
- Adjusting slight irregular tooth shapes caused by too many or uneven teeth
- Adjusting the length of the canines (the pointed teeth on the side of your mouth)
Recontouring can also improve overall dental health by removing crevices or overlaps between teeth in which plaque or tartar can accumulate.
Recontouring is not recommended if your teeth have substantial imperfections, such as a substantial chip or deep fracture. Recontouring is not a substitute for veneers or bonding; however, it is often used in combination with these procedures.
Talk to your doctor to see if recontouring is right for you.
What Does Recontouring Involve?
To determine if you are an appropriate candidate for recontouring, your dentist may first take an X-ray of your teeth to determine the size and location of the tooth's pulp (the center of the tooth that contains the nerves and blood vessels). If the tooth's enamel layer is too thin or if the pulp lies too close to the tooth's surface, recontouring may not be possible and another procedure – such as bonding or veneers – might need to be considered instead.
At your appointment, your dentist will use a sanding disc or a fine diamond bur to remove small amounts of tooth enamel. To reach imperfections between teeth, your dentist may use a strip of sandpaper to shape and smooth the sides. Once shaped, your dentist will finish the process by polishing your tooth or teeth.
Since recontouring does not affect the pulp of the tooth, an anesthetic is not usually needed.
A recontouring procedure that is not combined with other cosmetic procedures (such as bonding or veneer placement) does not require special care or follow-up.
What Risks Are Associated With Teeth Recontouring?
Because enamel cannot be replaced, recontouring should be carefully considered. The only risk involves the thickness of the enamel. If the enamel of the tooth that has been recontoured becomes too thin or exposes the dentin layer (the layer beneath the enamel), tooth sensitivity to heat, cold, and sweets could result.