You may notice that there are some people, perhaps yourself included, that have to strain their lips to bring them together. These people often appear to have their mouth slightly open throughout the day or to have teeth that severely stick out. This may indeed be the case, in which orthodontic treatment can be of great help!
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.
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!