How to avoid the bigger lips look from braces.

Medically Reviewed by
Dr. Todd Ehrler

DDS, MS

Table of Contents

  1. Lips Get You Noticed
  2. Lip Shape
  3. Stretched Lips Pain
  4. At-Home Care
  5. Smile Improvement
  6. References

You know braces change the look of your teeth. But it might surprise you to discover that the brackets, wires, and bands that improve your smile can stretch your lips.

Lips stretched by braces don't look natural, and they may hurt too. At-home care can help you ease some discomfort, or you could choose a different form of smile improvement and skip the lip shift altogether.

Your lips get you noticed.

Braces shoppers often prioritize their teeth. But your lips say a lot about your age, your health, and your attractiveness. Take care of them, and you're more likely to get the positive attention you want.

Researchers say that pouty, full lips are considered attractive by both men and women. We like lips to seem open, pillowy, and cushioned. That’s due, in part, to the fact that lips thin as we age. Full lips mean youth, fashion experts say, and that’s often associated with vitality and overall attractiveness.

But beautiful, full lips get that shape naturally. A mouth changed by braces does not produce the same type of lip. Lips that are pushed out by braces often look awkward.

Braces change your lip shape.

Sign up for braces, and your orthodontist will:

Use Brackets
These are glued to the front of your teeth, and they stay in place until your smile is improved.
Connect Brackets with Wires
Your teeth will move in unison as the wires get shorter and shorter with each adjustment. Expect some discomfort each time the wires are tightened and your braces are adjusted.
Use Bands
If you have an overbite or an underbite, your doctor might use rubber bands to push the teeth forward or back.
All of that hardware sits on the surface of your teeth, right behind your lips. The added material pushes your lips forward and out. With traditional braces, there’s no way to avoid some degree of the lips moving temporarily, simply due to the space braces take up in the mouth.
Braces can push your lips out and the result isn't natural or very attractive, although lingual braces may help, they can be painful which makes them less appealing then aligners.

Stretched lips are painful.

Your lips are elastic and movable so you can pucker up for a kiss or turn the edges up or down to express emotion. But with braces, your lips hold an unnatural shape for a long time, and that can be really uncomfortable.

Your lips are the most sensitive parts of your body, experts say. More than a million nerve endings line them. Each little nerve can send a signal of pain when the lips are pushed and stretched by braces.

After a day or two of stretching, your lips may also feel:

Chapped
Stretched skin can't effectively retain moisture. Tiny gaps and cracks form, and more moisture escapes.
Cut and Bruised
You might cut your bottom lip on your top brackets or cut your top lip on the hardware on your lower teeth.
Numb
Your lips may stop transmitting pain signals to your brain.
This discomfort can keep you from talking, smiling, and kissing comfortably. For some people, lip pain is one of the worst parts of having braces.

At-home care for chapped lips.

Braces sit on your teeth around the clock. There's no way to remove them at home. In time, your lips should adjust to the brackets, and the discomfort should decrease. But there are at-home steps you can take to ease pain while you wait.

When lip pain strikes:

Try Lip Balm
Over-the-counter products lock in lip moisture so your skin won't crack and chafe. Apply this regularly and you can prevent severely chapped lips.
Drink Cool Water
Cold temperatures can slow down pain signals and reduce inflammation. Hydration can also ease chapping.
Use Pain Relievers
Aspirin, ibuprofen, and other over-the-counter pain relievers can ease temporary discomfort. You shouldn’t take these all the time; only when the pain is particularly acute. Talk to your orthodontist about other solutions for pain if your lip pain is more constant.
Rest
The more you move your lips, the more they push and scrape against your hardware. Take a break from talking and eating when your lips really hurt.
If these steps don't alleviate your discomfort, talk with your orthodontist. You’ll need to keep wearing your braces, but perhaps adding wax to your brackets could keep the devices from scraping your lips.

Improve your smile without hurting your lips.

It's clear that braces push your lips up and out, and they can cut up the inside of your mouth too. You have options that could spare your lips, however.

Lingual braces, for example, are glued to the backside of your teeth. They are far from your lips, but they can change the way your tongue sits in your mouth, experts say. You may talk with a bit of a lisp when you have lingual braces. You might need to practice both talking and swallowing to get the hang of life with these braces.

Aligners can help protect your lips, and they don't harm your tongue in return. These devices are molded to closely fit around your teeth, and they don't protrude the way braces do.

Aligners can move your teeth with remarkable speed, and they're also difficult to spot with the naked eye. People won't notice pushed lips or shiny hardware. They'll just see your ever-changing smile. If you have an important meeting and want to take them out completely, you can do so.

To improve your smile without causing lip or tongue pain, aligners are a great choice.

References.

Is It Possible to Define the Ideal Lips? (February 2018). Acta Otorhinolaryngologica Italica.

The Anti-Aging Guide for Lips. (February 2020). Harper's Bazaar.

7 Amazing Facts About Your Lips. Jamaica Hospital Medical Center.

Lingual Braces: The Upside and Downside of Braces on the Back Side. (June 2019). Healthline.

What Are Lingual Braces? Colgate.


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