What Is a Lip Bumper?

An Orthodontic Instrument That Helps Braces Correct Tooth Crowding

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Orthodontic braces are commonly used to correct the alignment of the teeth. Though quite effective on their own, in some cases additional measures are needed. Among these are lip bumpers, which are appliances used to correct the crowding of front teeth in the lower jaw (or mandible). As such, they support the work that braces are doing.

Shaped like the letter U, lip bumpers encircle the lower teeth, pushing the lower lip forward slightly and creating a space. This supplements the work of the braces in encouraging regular spacing of the lower teeth and correcting your smile.

This article breaks down what this appliance does, how it works, and what it’s like to use one.

Tips for Managing Daily Life with a Lip Bumper - Illustration by Laura Porter

Verywell / Laura Porter

What Is a Lip Bumper?

Lip bumpers are orthodontic dental devices that are sometimes needed to help braces take on crowding in the lower set of teeth. These U-shaped appliances are held by sheaths attached to bands that have been cemented to your molars. Elastic or metal ties are used to keep the bumper in place.

Function

Primarily, lip bumpers help correct issues of crowding and crookedness in the lower set of teeth by gradually changing the shape of the alveolar bone. This is the ridge of bone in the mouth that has sockets for the teeth. By providing strategic pressure—and working alongside braces—you end up with a more regular, even, and attractive smile.

Specifically, the pressure placed on the teeth by lip bumpers helps push molars back and encourages front teeth to get into the proper position. In addition, as the name suggests, lip bumpers also help create a bigger space between the front of the teeth and the lip.

Notably, lip bumpers are also used to obstruct thumb, finger, or lip sucking—habits that can significantly impact dental health and tooth position. These devices disrupt the habitual satisfaction of these behaviors and help prevent some of their negative side effects.

Head Gear

Since mismatches between the sizes of upper jaw (maxilla) and lower jaw bones (mandible) are a frequent cause of misalignment of teeth (known clinically as “malocclusion”), orthodontic headgear focused on fixing this may also be called for. These appliances need to be worn at least eight hours a day.

What to Expect

Depending on the severity of your malocclusion, you can expect to wear a lip bumper for 12 to 24 months. As your orthodontist will tell you, special care needs to be taken. Here’s what you can expect:

  • Dental hygiene: Brush properly two to three times a day, and make sure you get to spaces above and below the appliance. Use a soft-bristled brush. Also, make sure to floss once a day, focusing not just on teeth, but the space between them and the bumper.
  • Managing soreness: Following the installation of the lip bumper and as you start using it, you’ll experience tenderness and soreness of the gums. Over-the-counter pain killers, such as Tylenol (acetaminophen) or Advil and Motrin (ibuprofen) can help.
  • Lip discomfort: Since lip bumpers work to push the lower lip out, you also may experience discomfort there as you adjust to your appliance. Over time, a small groove will form in the lip, which is a natural part of the process. If the discomfort is unbearable or excessive, call your orthodontist.
  • Keep it in place: You should not try to remove the appliance; this should only be done by professionals. Lip bumpers are precisely shaped and specifically attached to promote results. Keep wearing it, and let your orthodontist know if you’re having issues.
  • Bent appliances: If your lip bumper becomes dented or bent—or if a supporting band comes loose—be sure to let your orthodontist know as soon as possible. You’ll need an appointment to repair, replace, or reshape the bumper.
  • Avoid certain foods: Chewing gum and hard candies, as well as others that are sticky or more difficult to chew, should be avoided as these may damage your lip bumper.

Risks of Using a Lip Bumper

Though highly effective, there are some risks associated with lip bumper use. A 2014 study noted an increased incidence of abnormal second molar eruption in patients with a lip bumper. Basically, the second molar—which is the one just in front of the third molar (or “wisdom tooth”)—grows irregularly due to the pressure the bumper places on the teeth.

As a result, the biggest risk of lip bumper therapy is the possibility of impaction. This is a failure of a tooth to “erupt” or properly grow into the mouth past the gum line. It is most commonly seen in wisdom teeth, and lip bumpers and other orthodontics increase chances of impaction in that second molar.

Luckily, this type of impaction is treatable with other orthodontic instruments, such as spacers or retainers. In rare cases, dental surgery may be required to extract the problematic tooth.

Summary

Lip bumpers are an adjunctive orthodontic therapy that help braces correct spacing issues in the lower set of teeth. They do so by pressuring molars to move backward, while also creating space in front by pushing on the lower lip. These appliances are attached to a sleeve cemented to molars and secured with elastic or metallic ties.

Wearers of bumpers should be mindful of gum soreness, keeping up with dental hygiene, and any damage to the appliance. They should also steer clear of chewing gum, hard candies, and similar types of foods.

A Word from Verywell

There are many reasons it’s worth correcting crowding issues with your teeth. Not only can this restore a sense of self-confidence, it helps prevent other dental issues down the line.

Alongside braces and other orthodontic approaches, lip bumpers have cemented their place as an effective way to correct smiles. If you’re curious to learn more about what these and other methods can do, talk to your dentist or orthodontist.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How often do you wear a lip bumper?

    The total duration of lip bumper therapy varies based on the case, with most people needing to wear them for 12 to 24 months. This appliance isn’t removable, and only your orthodontist should adjust it or take it off. If it comes loose, detaches, or gets damaged, let them know as soon as possible.

  • Can I eat with a lip bumper?

    You can and should eat with a lip bumper on; however, it’s essential that you avoid sticky, hard, or chewy foods (such as hard candies and chewing gum). After every meal, make sure to carefully clean your teeth and the appliance. Proper dental care is critical for the success of tooth realignment.

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7 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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