Correctly aligned teeth aren’t just aesthetically ideal — they’re important to your overall health. When your teeth fit together well, they’re easier to clean, you’re less likely to damage the inside of your cheeks, and the muscles in your neck and jaw are subjected to less strain.

Braces can straighten your teeth and realign your jaw so your bite functions properly. Sometimes, orthodontists use extra devices to shorten your treatment time or make your braces more effective. A lip bumper is one such device. It creates extra space at the front of your lower jaw, giving your teeth more room to move into better alignment.

Read on to discover what lip bumpers are and how they may be used in your orthodontic treatment.

A lip bumper is a thin, U-shaped wire. The ends of the wire fit into metal bands that encircle the back teeth on your lower jaw. The front part of the wire extends your lower lip slightly, leaving more space for your front teeth to move into the right position. Your bottom lip then also exerts a natural pressure on the wire, helping to push molars back.

Lip bumpers are sleeved or coated in acrylic or rubber so they don’t injure the inside of your lip.

In recent years, some orthodontists have used a lip bumper to treat teeth in the upper jaw, too. These devices, called maxillary lip bumpers, can be helpful when the angle or alignment of the upper teeth interferes with the bite.

Some lip bumpers are removable, but orthodontists usually encourage people to leave them in place around the clock to increase their effectiveness.

In addition to creating more space for tooth alignment, lip bumpers can also be used to correct the problems caused by lip-, thumb– or finger-sucking habits.

Lip sucking can cause painful ulcers to form on the inside of the lips and gums. It can also change the alignment of the front teeth. Lip bumpers may help prevent the behavior and correct the problems it causes.

Tips for changing a thumb-sucking habit

Doctors recommend these strategies when you’re helping a child correct a habit like thumb sucking.

  • Enlist your doctor or dentist. Your child might respond better if a trusted healthcare provider explains the reasons to stop thumb sucking.
  • Reward steady progress. Setting short-term goals with small rewards may keep your child motivated for long-term change.
  • Find the “why.” Does anxiety trigger your child’s thumb sucking? Is it a bedtime comfort behavior? Understanding when and why can help you and your child find solutions.
  • Remind; don’t ridicule. Breaking this habit is hard work. Being gentle and positive will change this behavior faster.

Some researchers have questioned whether lip bumpers cause the lower lip to put more pressure on the teeth. A 2020 review looking at six studies showed that a lip bumper could change the length of the dental arch by pushing your molars back and reducing the crowding of your front teeth. These changes appear to last.

It’s important to know that lip bumper therapy does carry a risk of impacting your second molar. One study found that around 12 percent of the people who had lip bumper therapy developed impacted second molars. In some cases, orthodontists corrected the problem with small spacers inserted between the molars, but other cases required surgery.

A lip bumper is a U-shaped orthodontic device that creates extra space between your teeth and lips to allow for freer movement of your teeth while you’re wearing braces.

Lip bumpers are made of wire and are coated with soft rubber or acrylic to keep them from injuring the soft tissues in your mouth. The wire is anchored to bands on molars in the back of your mouth.

Most lip bumpers are worn on the lower teeth, but they can be used to fix alignment issues in your upper jaw. They can also be used to correct teeth misalignment caused by thumb-, finger-, or lip-sucking habits.

Lip bumpers are effective, but there is a risk that your molars can become impacted if the moving molars put too much pressure on each other. Placing tiny spacers between your teeth may treat this problem. Teeth that become too impacted may need to be moved surgically.