Will Removing The Nasal Spine Lengthen My Upper Lip?

Q: Dr. Eppley, I wanted to ask a rhinoplasty question. Since my primary motivation for getting any work done is to improve my smile. In a rhinoplasty where you reduce the nasal spine as we discussed, would there be a possible side effect of lengthening the distance between the nose and mouth? In my imagination, by eliminating some of the protruding cartilage in that area, the tissue and skin that currently exists there would be pulled back into that void, thus pulling up the lip slightly. However, I’m not sure if that’s even how the anatomy works. Is the tissue anchored to that area and would it need to re-anchor itself or would it just drape down further, thus lengthening the lip?

A: Your question is a good one. Theoretically by removing the nasal spine, your assumption is most likely correct that the tissue should be pulled back up into the removed area potentially lifting the lip somewhat. In reality, probably very little lip lift actually occurs. There have been a few reported instances where lips have lengthened as a result but that is not something that I have ever seen. One would not, however, try to anchor the tissues to the removed nasal spine area as that may potentially cause a tethering/tightness when one smiles. It is much better to let the area heal naturally rather than try to treat a potential problem which may never occur…and in the process create a whole new one.

The way I view your rhinoplasty, and is the reverse of the the concern of upper lip lengthening, is that the rhinoplasty is potentially setting up a subnasal lip. So whatever happens to the lip length (particularly if there is some lengthening) does not matter because you likely moving on to a lip lift anyway.

Dr. Barry Eppley

Indianapolis, Indiana