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Many patients worry that their lip size or shape might change during or after orthodontic treatment. And while this fear is legitimate, not all orthodontists talk to their patients about how their lips or even face can change with braces. If your lips are your favorite feature, I’m sure you’ll want to know more, so here are all the facts you need to be aware of.
There’s a clear connection between braces and lip size. Traditional braces, especially ceramic ones, can make the lips look temporarily bigger because they take up more space. Braces can also permanently change the position of the lips by moving teeth inward or forward, creating a fuller or thinner lip.
How does this apply to you? In this article, I’ll talk about all aspects of teeth and braces that can affect lip size, and I’m pretty sure you’ll find one that applies to you. It’s best to know all these things going forward into treatment and avoid disappointment once your braces come off.
Can braces make your lips look bigger?
Absolutely. Braces can and most likely will make your lips a little bigger. Whether you’re wearing aligners or traditional braces, they all add extra volume to your teeth, making your lips stick out a little bit in the process.
Some patients even develop a pout because they tend to plump or relax their lips so that they don’t press on their braces and teeth. Whatever gets them through those painful first months!
If you have bigger lips already, you might not notice a huge difference. It’s people with thinner lips who experience the most obvious changes. So lip size does matter. But what matters most is where your teeth are positioned, and how they move during orthodontic treatment.
You see, your teeth are actually the supporting structure of your lips, much like your bone structure defines your face shape. And since we’ll be moving teeth with braces, you might experience your lips getting fuller, or the opposite.
Here are a few situations in which your lips can become fuller:
- Wearing ceramic braces (they stick out the most)
- Overbite (when the top teeth stick out)
- Biprotrusion (when both the top and bottom teeth stick out)
- Correcting crowded teeth without extractions (it may make your front teeth stick out)
As you probably notice, it’s not the lip size that increases, but rather the teeth that either tilt forward or move forward during orthodontic treatment, as well as having an overbite or biprotrusion.
When your top teeth are positioned too forward, your top lip can look bigger, but so can your bottom lip. This is because your bottom lip will also be resting on your top teeth. As your top teeth are corrected, you should see an improvement in both lips.
If your teeth are sticking out, and you’re treated with extractions, you might temporarily experience a period where the protrusion seems to be getting worse instead of better, but I promise your orthodontist will start pulling your teeth back as soon as the time is right, correcting your lips in the process.
What about when braces come off?
Most patients are excited about their lips appearing bigger during and after braces, but some are not as happy with their final results. Check this article on not liking your teeth after braces if you want to know more about the most common complaints.
The worst-case scenario is not being able to close your lips together without straining. If your lips appear fuller after orthodontic treatment, but you’re not able to close them comfortably, it’s most likely because your orthodontist treated your crowding case without extracting teeth or pulling teeth back.
And while bigger lips after braces are not really a cause for concern, some patients end up resenting their pout and flared teeth and need to be retreated with either premolar extractions or retraction mechanics, so that their teeth sit better within their face and lip profile.
Hopefully, you’re among the patients satisfied with their discreet lip increase.
Why does your upper lip look smaller after orthodontic treatment?
The reverse is also true when wearing braces. While braces in themselves will never make lips look smaller, they can help retract teeth inward, and, as a result, retract the upper lip as well.
This is a well-known side effect of extractions, and it should be addressed by your orthodontist when suggesting premolar extractions as part of your treatment. If you have a thin lip and flat profile, extractions can potentially make your profile look unattractive and make your lips look even thinner.
Of course, there are ways to go around this, but it’s a risk that needs to be discussed. The alternative to extractions is often jaw surgery, and many patients refuse to go this route. As a result, many patients consciously choose a treatment option that makes their lips look slightly smaller.
In my opinion, having a great front smile and a healthy, stable bite is worth giving up a couple of millimeters in lip profile, and claims like “braces ruined my face” are rarely valid, quite the opposite.
Again, people with thinner lips will experience the most obvious changes. Studies have shown that patients with natural lip fullness don’t display the same retraction when their teeth move back as patients with thin lips.
Here’s an example of an adult patient with thin lips treated with premolar extractions. His profile is indeed more dished in, but he was warned about this effect and chose to go with it to avoid surgery:
Here’s the same patient from the front. His smile is nice and wide and his bite is perfect. Overall, his results are acceptable, but unfortunately, we had to compromise his lip position slightly.
Other factors that affect lip size
So far, we’ve focused on tooth position and tooth movement and how vital they are in supporting our lips. But age plays a huge factor as well. So if you’re getting braces as an adult, you need to keep in mind that as you age, your lips will have less collagen and will be much more likely to appear thinner after treatment with extractions or retraction.
The natural tendency as we age is for our lips to become smaller and droop, showing less of our top teeth and more of our bottom teeth when we talk and smile. If you have a gummy smile, this may be a good thing, but in most cases, it’s just something we have to come to terms with.
Now let’s look at a couple of things other than braces that can make your lips look fuller:
If you’re wearing braces and your lips are suddenly bigger, make sure you’re not allergic to any of the braces components: nickel, latex, or resin, or that you don’t have any food allergies that might have caused angioedema in your lips.
Hopefully, you’re happy with the changes you’re seeing in your lips, but if the plumpness is caused by the size of your braces, your lips will most likely return to normal as soon as your braces come off.
If, however, you’re unsatisfied with the current position of your lips, either because they’re too protruded or too far back, you can opt to repeat orthodontic treatment and adjust the position of your teeth so that your face and lips aren’t negatively impacted.
Lastly, you can always resort to lip fillers to discreetly fill out a thin top lip. Ultimately, self-acceptance, and knowing that lip position isn’t permanent throughout our lifetime are the best ways to embrace your new appearance.
Whether you’re new to braces or a braces veteran, taking care of your teeth (and your health) during orthodontic treatment is crucial. That’s why I’ve put together a list of orthodontist-recommended tools that will make caring for your braces a breeze: