The orthodontic lip bumper is a type of space maintainer usually placed during the mixed dentition when both deciduous, or "baby," and permanent teeth are present. This usually occurs between the ages of 8 and 12 years. It is utilized mainly to preserve the excess space produced as the larger baby molar teeth are replaced by the narrower permanent bicuspids. It is best to place the appliance 6-12 months prior to the loss of the deciduous molars.
The great majority of orthodontic lip bumpers are fixed to the banded lower six-year molars. Occasionally, Lip bumpers are made removable for patients who play wind musical instruments. The appliance is usually non-problematic, however, irritation may occur on the cheeks or gums, and more rarely, on the inside of the lower lip. Adjustments can be made to eliminate any areas of discomfort.
Lip bumpers are placed for 6-36 months. Over this time, the lip bumper is adjusted at two to four month intervals. The wire is adjusted so that it is positioned two to three mm in advance of the front teeth so that lip pressure is transferred to the attached first permanent molars so that forward migration does not occur. The orthodontic lip bumper appliance works in assisting nature to unravel developing arch crowding. Not only is the lip bumper beneficial in helping to maintain space, but it also increases long-term stability by eliminating expansion of the lower teeth to unravel future crowding.