I can’t close my lips: Can braces fix this?

by Michael Abdoney - 06/12/2022 -Braces

Orthodontists call the inability to bring one’s lips together “lip incompetence”. Lip incompetence is frequently caused by protrusive upper (and sometimes also lower) teeth. Orthodontists have a variety of ways to bring back teeth that stick out and the strategy chosen depends on many factors specific to each patient. Facial bone structure can also cause people to have lip incompetence. When large differences in the size and/or position of the upper and lower jaws exist, the upper and lower lips are naturally positioned further apart from each other.

Lip incompetence is also commonly referred to as mentalis strain, is typically an inability to close the lips together. One of the major causes of lip incompetence is protrusive upper teeth. 

What Causes Lip Incompetence or Mentalis Strain

Lip incompetence may have plenty of causes such as:

  • Deviated Septum refers to misalignment of the cartilage in the nose separating nasal cavities. The condition either is a birth defect or can be a result of a nose injury. It reduces airflow and leads to lip incompetence.
  • Weak Muscle Tone:  Weak muscles in the lips and jaws cause difficulty in lip movement.
  • Craniofacial Anomalies:  The condition is typically misinformation of the head and face. It can be the result of jaw anomalies.
  • Thumb Sucking:   It happens when the habit of mimicking lip incompetence posture becomes habitual.
  • Tongue Thrusting:  The habit of pushing the tongue between the teeth when eating and swallowing can develop lip incompetence.
  • Sleep disorders and allergies are also some common reasons for lip incompetence.

Effects of Lip incompetence

Lip incompetence may result in major oral health issues such as tooth eruption, changes in breathing, swallowing, jaw alignment, and joint functions. Let’s plunge into the details to understand these changes in a better way.

Facial Development

Lip incompetence can limit or restrict forward growth and stresses vertical growth of not only dental arches but also the face, resulting in a long face, recessed chin, short upper lip, and gummy smile. Your facial muscles provide support for lip seals.

Jaw Joint Function

Did you know the freeway space between your lower and upper back teeth is just 2 to 3 mm?

If this space between the teeth is increased for a long time, teeth continue to erupt causing severe dental alignment problems. The condition compresses the joints and recesses the jaws which may cause trauma and pain to the joint points and teeth.

Swallowing and Tongue Posture

Lip incompetence is the major reason for interdental rest posture and abnormal forward of the tongue. Your tongue comes to an open space right at the point where upper and lower teeth are separated. It encourages a thrusting swallow changing dental alignment and making a wide-open bite.

The condition causes your mouth to take in more air. That makes improper swallowing and leads to stomach discomfort, bloating, gas and reflux.

Breathing issues

Lip incompetence is often an indication of nasal obstruction, sleep-disordered breathing, and enlarged tonsils. If the upper dental arch changes (narrow or high), it takes the space of nasal sinuses and inhibits nasal breathing.

Aesthetic Concerns

A gummy smile, disproportionate profile, dimpled chin, and asymmetry are the common aesthetic concerns of people with lip incompetence.

How is lip incompetence corrected?

A common treatment plan for teeth that stick out involves removing two or four premolars to create space to bring the teeth back. This space not only can correct protrusion and decrease a patient’s strain upon closing their lips, but it can also correct bite problems. An appliance may also be used to hold the molars back while closing the spaces created by extracting teeth.

Another way to reduce lip incompetence may also be to use a bite correcting appliance that pushes upper teeth back without extracting teeth. This is typically only indicated in growing patients (early teens) with certain bite problems.

In instances where lip incompetence is due to a large difference in the position of the jaws, orthognathic surgery may be indicated. Surgery involves moving the whole upper or lower jaw (or both) forward or backward, as needed for the individual. There are many reasons other than lip incompetence that are just cause for performing surgery and it’s by no means to go-to way to correct lip protrusion!

Summing Up

You may outgrow lip incompetence if you identify and take corrective measures in time. However, consulting your orthodontist is essential if you’re an adult and need the treatment mentioned above.