Recontouring Teeth

Last Editorial Review: 1/31/2005
The Cleveland Clinic

Recontouring or reshaping of 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.

When Is Recontouring Considered?

Recontouring is the most conservative cosmetic treatment. It is a quick and painless procedure whose results can be seen immediately. The procedure is usually done to improve appearance by "creating more harmony or balance" in the look of the smile.

Recontouring is an effective method to correct minor imperfections, such as:

  1. Fixing small chips
  2. Smoothing out bulges or pits in a tooth's enamel
  3. Adjusting slight irregular tooth shapes caused by too many or uneven teeth
  4. Adjusting the length of the canines (the pointed eyeteeth)

Recontouring can also improve overall dental health by removing crevices or overlaps between teeth in which plaque or tartar can accumulate.

When Is Recontouring Not Appropriate?

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.

What Does Recontouring Involve?

  1. Initial exam. 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.
  2. The procedure. Since recontouring does not affect the pulp of the tooth, an anesthetic is not usually needed. 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.
  3. Follow up. 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, this procedure 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 hot, cold, and sweets could result.

Reviewed by the doctors at The Cleveland Clinic Department of Dentistry.
Edited by Michael W. Smith, MD, April 2003, WebMD.

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The Cleveland Clinic 2000-2003


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