Updated on February 9, 2024
5 min read

Teeth Shaving

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What is Teeth Shaving?

Teeth shaving involves removing a small amount of enamel to change the shape of your teeth. It’s done for various reasons and can affect multiple teeth or just one.

Other names for tooth shaving include:

  • Tooth reshaping
  • Tooth contouring
  • Tooth filling

The clinical terms for teeth shaving procedures are odontoplasty and enameloplasty. They can be done for cosmetic reasons, to adjust a bite, or to prepare a tooth for other dental procedures.

Can You Shave Your Own Teeth?

Teeth shaving can be dangerous if not done by a dental professional. 

Recently, DIY teeth shaving, such as with a nail file, has become a trend on social media. This is unsafe to try as it can result in permanent, irreversible damage.

According to Dr. Nandita Lilly, “When a dentist contours a tooth, they remove less than a fraction of a millimeter of enamel. However, attempting this at home can risk filing away too much of your tooth enamel and the underlying dentin. This weakens your tooth structure and can lead to hypersensitivity and decay.”

The risks involved with at-home tooth shaving far outweigh the cost of the procedure. And if you’re getting it for medical reasons, your dental insurance may cover part of the cost. 

There are several reasons your dentist may recommend teeth shaving. Likewise, there are plenty of reasons why you shouldn’t try to shave your teeth at home.

Warning: Don’t Shave Your Teeth at Home

It’s common and normal to want to change something about your smile. For example, maybe you have one tooth that doesn’t fit in with your other teeth.

Perhaps you’ve seen videos of people shaving their teeth at home and want to try it. Don’t do it. DIY teeth shaving is dangerous and can cause permanent damage. You may end up removing more than the top enamel layer. 

Tooth enamel isn’t like hair and nails. Once it’s gone, it cannot grow back. Because of this, at-home teeth shaving increases your risk for dental complications, including:

  • Tooth pain and sensitivity
  • Tooth decay and cavities
  • Nerve inflammation and irritation

Who Should Consider Shaving Their Teeth?

No one should shave their own tooth enamel. 

However, you should talk to your dentist about teeth shaving if you’re concerned about one or more of the following issues:

  • A misshapen tooth or teeth
  • A chipped tooth or teeth
  • Difficulty biting or chewing food due to misaligned teeth

Your dentist will carefully evaluate your teeth to determine if you’re a good candidate for teeth shaving.

Side Effects and Dangers of Tooth Shaving

When performed by a dentist, tooth shaving doesn’t involve significant risks or side effects. Odontoplasty is generally considered a conservative procedure.

Some research suggests a greater risk is involved if a dentist performs the procedure on a damaged tooth.4 

If your dentist needs to reshape a broken or severely damaged tooth before placing a crown, they may recommend a different solution. They may also discuss the possible risks with you.

What are the Benefits of Tooth Shaving?

Whether it’s for beauty reasons or to improve your bite, professional tooth filing has several benefits, including:

  • Minimal discomfort — Only small amounts of the enamel layer are removed, and the tooth’s pulp remains untouched
  • Economical — At $50 to $350 per tooth, teeth contouring is less expensive than veneers
  • Effective alternative to other treatments — Occlusal equilibration or teeth contouring may be a faster and easier alternative to orthodontic treatment
  • Improves oral hygiene — Reduces areas where plaque can build up in crowded and overlapping teeth

7 Reasons for Teeth Shaving

Reasons your dentist may recommend a tooth-shaving procedure include:

1. Reshaping Damaged Teeth

Many people feel self-conscious about smiling with a damaged or chipped tooth at the front of their mouth. And scratching your tongue on chipped teeth with sharp edges can lead to mouth sores

Removing the sharp edge of a damaged tooth can leave you feeling more comfortable and confident with your smile.

2. Adjusting Your Bite

The surfaces of your back teeth are a landscape of small peaks and valleys (cusps and fossae) that help with chewing food. Ideally, your upper and lower teeth will fit evenly together when you bite down.

Uneven teeth can cause a bite misalignment (malocclusion). Without treatment, this could lead to many problems, including:

Occlusal equilibration is a dental procedure that reshapes the biting surfaces of your teeth. This helps them fit together properly. It also reduces wear to the tooth enamel and alleviates jaw pain.

3. Creating More Room in Your Mouth

Your dentist may recommend teeth filing in between teeth if you have severely crowded teeth. Interproximal reduction is a procedure in which a dentist uses a flexible strip that is worked back and forth in between the teeth. Overlapping teeth can cause various dental problems, including:

  • Jaw pain
  • Crooked teeth
  • Misalignment

Filing some of these teeth can create space in your mouth and relieve any problems caused by crowding.

4. Preparing for Orthodontic Treatment

Braces and retainers are common treatments for crowded and misaligned teeth. They improve your bite by shifting your teeth into their proper positions.

An orthodontist may need to shave one or more teeth to accommodate orthodontic appliances better.

5. Cosmetic Dentistry

Many people decide to reshape their front teeth to improve the appearance of their smile. Even for aesthetic reasons, tooth reshaping should be done by a qualified dentist.

Tooth contouring is a cosmetic procedure that gently reshapes the front teeth to make crooked teeth appear straighter.

6. Veneer Teeth Shaving

Veneers are a cosmetic dentistry treatment that can dramatically change your smile. They’re super thin, custom-made shells that fit over your teeth.

Preparing your teeth for veneers involves shaving off a small amount of surface enamel. When the enamel is removed, the veneers can fit properly.

7. Other Dental Procedures

Your dentist may need to remove some enamel from one or more teeth before completing a dental restoration, such as:


Tooth shaving involves reshaping one or several teeth by removing small amounts of surface enamel.

Dentists perform teeth-shaving procedures for various functional and cosmetic purposes. Professional tooth shaving is considered a conservative procedure with no significant risks.

At-home teeth shaving is dangerous and can lead to dental complications like tooth sensitivity, pain, and cavities.

Last updated on February 9, 2024
6 Sources Cited
Last updated on February 9, 2024
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
  1. Livas, C, et al. “Enamel Reduction Techniques in Orthodontics: A Literature Review.” The Open Dentistry Journal, 2013.
  2. Misaligned Teeth and Jaws: Overview.” Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care, 2020.
  3. Soleymani, A, et al. “Evaluation of the Effects of Enameloplasty and Air Abrasion on Sealant Micro-Leakage.” Journal of Dentistry of Tehran University of Medical Sciences, 2014.
  4. Da Cruz, MK, et al. “Odontoplasty Associated with Clinical Crown Lengthening in Management of Extensive Crown Destruction.” Journal of Conservative Dentistry, 2012.
  5. Pontons-Melo, JC, et al. “Cosmetic Recontouring for Achieving Anterior Esthetics.” The International Journal of Esthetic Dentistry, 2019.
  6. Shetty, P. “Occlusal Instability, Occlusal Equilibration and Clinical Practice: A Systematic Approach.” The Journal of Indian Prosthodontic Society, 2020.
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