No, it's not about hairy molars — teeth shaving is the process of intentionally recontouring or reshaping teeth to achieve a variety of restorative and cosmetic goals. This clinical procedure has been around for decades and presents an interesting option to help dentists achieve improved results for their patients.
Shaving down tooth enamel is typically a painless procedure and does not normally require anesthesia. Read on for some of the more common reasons your dentist might suggest it.
Occlusal adjustment (equilibration) refers to the reshaping of the cusps (pointed tops) on the biting surfaces of the back teeth. The back teeth have numerous hills and valleys (called cusps and fossae) that help you chew your food. Ideally, the teeth should fit evenly together like the mechanical teeth on gear wheels.
The way your teeth fit together makes an exquisitely sensitive system, and if it's not operating accurately it can lead to many problems, such as wear and grinding, muscle spasms and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunction. Occlusal adjustment through teeth shaving may take several dental visits to "balance" your bite and bring it into harmony. Your bite may feel different for a while, but the benefits will be well worth it!
Reshaping of the front teeth for aesthetic reasons is also an option. Enamel microabrasion pares down some of the outer layers of enamel to remove intrinsic surface stains. This may be done with abrasive burs, discs, acidic gels or a combination of tools.
Cosmetic recontouring involves gently reshaping and polishing the front teeth to make crooked teeth appear straighter or simply more attractive. Enamel recontouring is probably the most common form of teeth shaving. It is usually accomplished in one visit after careful planning and close consultation with the patient to outline their preferences.
In many cases, teeth are reshaped for functional reasons to accommodate a device or treatment. These may include:
- Reshaping teeth to fit the clasps and rest seats (or anchor points) of a removable partial denture.
- Removing some of the outer layers of enamel to create more space between tipped teeth for the replacement of a missing tooth.
- "Slenderizing" teeth to facilitate orthodontic treatment in cases of severe crowding.
Regardless of the reason for shaving teeth, these procedures should be done in close consultation with your dentist. With meticulous home care, tooth recontouring should result in a healthier, more attractive and more easily to-care-for smile.