A lip bumper is a dental appliance used in the orthodontic treatment of children. It's basically a wire that is partially coated in plastic. The wire is hooked on to two molars at either end and lines the front side of the lower teeth. Used as an early intervention, the lip bumper essentially stretches or widens the arch of the lower jaw to introduce added capacity for the eruption of the permanent adult teeth. It's generally a preferred alternative to teeth extraction that is usually installed by an orthodontist who will likely need to make periodic adjustments over the course of a year.
The dental lip bumper creates several positive conditions in the mouth. It allows the tongue to gently press against the lower teeth, thereby creating more space for them. At the same time, it keeps the cheeks and lower lip from exerting too much pressure on the teeth, pressure which can lead to crowding. The appliance also pushes the patient's lower molars back to make room for permanent teeth. The bumper is occasionally used on the upper teeth, but its primary application is in the lower mouth.
The orthodontic lip bumper is generally a precursor to dental braces, and it may cut down on the amount of time a young patient may subsequently have to wear braces. In this way, the lip bumper functions as the opposite of a retainer, the appliance worn by the orthodontic patient for some period of time after braces come off.
The appliance itself is a plastic-covered, metal wire that connects to tubes anchored to the lower molars and behind the lower lip. Although it is a removable appliance, it is typically worn 24 hours a day including during meals and when sleeping. Some orthodontists, however, may allow patients to remove the appliance when eating and brushing. If a bumper is worn continuously, patients must make sure to carefully brush around it to thoroughly remove plaque from the lower teeth.
Patients may experience some soreness or sensitivity in the teeth or gums in the first couple of days after placement of a lip bumper. Eating soft foods, gargling with salt water, or taking Tylenol® can help during this transitional period. If the irritation persists, an orthodontist should be seen to assess whether refitting may be necessary. A lip bumper generally stays in place for approximately one year for a successful outcome. Patients will also need to return to the orthodontist office for regular adjustments during that time.