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Teeth filing is a professional dental procedure, technically known as enameloplasty. It involves the careful removal of a small amount of enamel from the surface of teeth. Also known as teeth shaving or recontouring, the process requires the skill and experience of a dentist, using a sanding tool, laser, or other equipment to reshape the sides or surface of teeth.  

Here, we’ll cover the most pressing things to know about teeth filing, including the benefits, costs, and the risks of recent TikTok trends.

The benefits—why is teeth-shaping so popular?  

There are a number of reasons you may want to change the shape of your teeth. Perhaps you have minor defects in teeth that you’d like to repair. Maybe you have an uneven bite, rough molar surfaces or issues related to the length of a tooth, its surface texture, or shape.

No matter the reason—whether medical or aesthetic—there are many benefits to teeth filing that make it a popular corrective choice.

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Medical benefits of tooth contouring include:

  • repair of minor defects or imbalances between teeth
  • increased room for incoming teeth
  • greater dental health—removal of minor tooth overlaps decreases risk of decay
  • part of dental preparation for a crown (following a root canal)
  • can assist in tooth preparation before the application of braces
  • evens out your bite—preventing or relieving jaw pain

As for cosmetic benefits, they include:  

  • an improved smile, with fewer imperfections
  • a greater sense of confidence in your appearance
  • a low-cost solution for minor dental repairs or uneven teeth

In short, teeth filing is popular for both medical and aesthetic reasons. If you’ve got that one tooth that bothers you—maybe it’s a little longer than the others or a bit crooked—you might be the perfect candidate for this low-cost makeover for your smile.

What are the risks of teeth filing?

Thankfully, when a dental professional changes the shape of your teeth through tooth filing, the risks are relatively low.

The primary concern is the risk of tooth damage through the loss of enamel. This hard, outer layer of the tooth protects the dentin layer inside, as well as the tooth nerve. Enamel protects against cavities and tooth decay as well. 

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Unfortunately, this hard-working layer does not regenerate. Once you’ve lost your enamel, it cannot be replaced. If too much enamel is lost, you can suffer from:

  • excess tooth sensitivity
  • fragile teeth (which are more prone to tooth structure damage) 
  • greater risk of decay

In other words, it is important that this delicate procedure is performed by a skilled professional andsomeone who understands the nature and fragility of your tooth enamel.

A dangerous trend – DIY tooth filing with a nail file

Dental and orthodontic professionals across the country are horrified by a new trend on social media in which people are filing their own teeth using nail files. As these inexperienced people use improper files to smooth out any bumps or imperfections, they are risking permanent damage to their oral health.

This TikTok trend has dentistry professionals crying foul.

According to the American Association of Orthodontists, teeth filing has irreversible consequences if not done properly. Once you wear away the protective enamel on your teeth, it is gone for good.

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Without your enamel, you’re at risk of tooth sensitivity or even losing the tooth itself. This is especially true if the tooth is fragile in the first place.  

Even popular TikTokers have expressed their regret over shaving down teeth in a public forum, asking their followers not to act as they have in becoming “DIY dentists.”   

If you are considering reshaping your teeth for any reason, be sure to consult a dental professional for their advice and skilled service.

Common questions about teeth filing

As you consider whether or not to have tooth reshaping done as part of an overall dental care plan, you likely have a number of questions. 

Here are a few answers to common questions about enameloplasty:

Why is it done before braces or clear aligners?

Shaving or shaping teeth is a common step taken before braces are applied or a clear aligner, such as Invisalign, is used for orthodontic purposes. By removing a small amount of enamel, your dentist or orthodontist will create space within your mouth. 

Even a small amount of room to move will allow your teeth to straighten and align more easily with either braces or a clear aligner.  

Does teeth filing hurt? 

The short answer is—no. There are no nerve endings in your enamel, nor will your dentist touch the dentin or root of your tooth through the procedure. In addition, there are few side effects associated with teeth filing and you are unlikely to need any form of anesthetic.

How much does teeth filing cost?

Thankfully, tooth shaping only requires your dentist’s time, skill, and specialized tools. As a result, it is far more cost effective than other procedures or forms of cosmetic dentistry, which may involve custom implants or extensive work.

Tooth reshaping costs will vary from one dental professional to another and will depend on the amount of work required. Overall, you can expect to pay anywhere between $50 to $300 per tooth.  

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Does insurance cover teeth filing?

Most insurance companies do not cover the cost of teeth filing unless the required work is the result of an accident or injury. Speak to your insurance provider to ask about their policies and find out if you qualify for coverage.

How much enamel is removed?

Using advanced technology, your dentist can predict how much enamel should be removed with a high level of precision. While the exact amount will depend on your goals and the nature of your teeth, your dentist will most likely remove somewhere between 0.2 and 0.5mm on each tooth. 

If you are concerned about the depth or quantity of enamel that will be removed, speak to your dental professional ahead of time—they can explain in detail and make adjustments, where necessary.  

Which COVID-19 precautions are needed?

Thankfully, the dental industry is well prepared for the pandemic with health procedures that have evolved over time. With standard safety measures in place, you can feel safe having any dental procedure done, from teeth whitening to tartar removal, tooth reshaping or a standard set of x-rays.   

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If it makes you more comfortable to know the specific measures your dentist will take to protect your health during the pandemic, speak to them ahead of time so you know what to expect.

Let an expert handle the job

When you’ve researched the benefits and risks of this dental procedure, seen the before and after photos, and considered the filed teeth cost, it’s time to call in the experts. 

A qualified dental professional will assess the structure and health of your teeth, discuss viable options, and safely reshape your areas of concern. Given the risk of permanent damage, it is important to work with a trusted professional for this procedure. 

Across the country, dentists are trained to skilfully do this work. 

Find a dentist in your area to schedule an initial consultation. You will have the chance to ask questions, share your concerns, and find out if this procedure is right for you.

Whether you are interested in tooth contouring for medical or cosmetic reasons, it is important to seek the assistance of a professional. A simple dentist appointment will give you the confidence of knowing what can be done and how the end results can be achieved safely.   

It is critical to avoid the pitfall of trying to reshape your front teeth or lower teeth at home—without meaning any harm, you could easily do lasting damage. In essence, your short-term cosmetic goals could force you into a situation in which you need even more significant dental work down the road.