Sometimes, braces alone aren’t enough to move teeth into a better position, or to correct trouble with the bite or remedy problems in the growth of the jaws. In those situations, you may be recommended the use of special appliances. Orthodontic headgear is the general name for an appliance, worn partly outside the mouth, which creates just enough force to move the teeth properly and guide the growth of the face and jaws.
There are several different types of orthodontic headgear, each designed to work best in a specific situation. We will design a treatment program to address your individual needs, and select the most appropriate type of headgear; we will also instruct you on its use and care. It’s important for you to follow instructions carefully so that, working together, we can achieve the best results from your treatment.
Headgear corrects over- and underbites in children. The apparatus applies a specific amount of pressure at particular angles to hold the upper jaw back to allow the lower jaw to grow into the correct position for a proper bite. Headgear may also be used to move the upper molars further back into your mouth to correct an overbite. The headgear is customized to pull teeth backward and upward, or forward to correct an underbite. Headgear is most commonly worn by children whose jaws are still growing. Adults rarely wear headgear. Types of Headgear
This type of headgear are typically used to correct an excessive horizontal overbite (technically called an “overjet”) in children, by holding back the growth of the upper jaw. They can also be used for adults who need help maintaining a proper bite and correct tooth spacing after tooth extraction. Generally, these types of headgear are designed to be worn from 12-14 hours each day.
Another type of headgear is the reverse-pull or “facemask” type. This appliance is generally used to correct an underbite. It gently pulls the upper jaw forward (instead of back), which allows it to catch up with the lower jaw. It consists of two pads — one resting on the forehead, the other on the chin — connected by a vertical frame. Elastics or wires, which connect from the frame to the braces, exert the pulling force. It may be necessary to wear this appliance from 14-16 hours daily.
Making Headgear Work Depends on You
Whichever type of headgear you’re wearing, there are some important things you should know. Probably the most essential one is this: In order for it to be effective, you must carefully follow instructions about wearing your headgear — that means putting it on each day for the time specified. If you wear headgear at night and you miss one night, you must make up the time the following day — otherwise, everything you’ve accomplished in the previous seven days of wear could be wiped out!
It’s normal to feel some discomfort as you get used to wearing orthodontic headgear. Fortunately, if you wear it faithfully, the discomfort generally goes away in a few days. You may be recommended an over-the-counter pain reliever like Ibuprofen, and/or a soft diet, to help you adjust.
From time to time you may also experience some soreness when chewing, or even a little looseness in the first molars. This is normal, and it shows the appliance is working. However, if you have unusual pain, notice that the anchor band on your first molar (the one the headgear attaches to) has come loose, or find that the headgear suddenly seems not to fit correctly, it could signal a problem. In that case, contact us right away.