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Headgear is an orthodontic appliance that treats bite problems associated with irregular jaw positioning. The appliance attaches to a child’s face or head with a neck strap.
The most common age group that uses headgear is children nine years of age and older.
During this stage of life, a child’s jaw and bones are growing rapidly. Headgear repositions the jaw early on, preventing the need for jaw surgery later in life.
Orthodontic headgear is always used in combination with braces. Braces correct teeth positioning, while headgear influences the growth of the jaws.
Headgear is usually unnecessary if a child needs braces but does not have severe bite problems.
Orthodontic headgear has several parts that are adjusted depending on the jaw’s condition. The parts of headgear include:
Not all headgear contains the same parts. For example, some types of headgear use hooks or bands to attach to braces, while others do not.
Adults usually do not wear headgear because of fully developed jaws and teeth. You may only see an adult with headgear if they need minor bite correction or teeth straightening due to an accident.
If an adult somehow loses teeth, headgear may be necessary to keep the remaining teeth in place while preparing for dental implants or dentures.
These are what you can expect when you wear headgear:
You can expect to have regular orthodontic appointments for your headgear. Here’s what you can expect:
Headgear is necessary for 12 to 14 hours a day. To ensure treatment is effective, orthodontists recommend:
Visiting an orthodontist for regular monitoring of the headgear and changes to your bite is essential. Once the teeth have moved into their correct positions, the orthodontist can shorten the time the headgear is necessary each day.
Some patients experience minor side effects with headgear, while others may develop more severe issues. It’s normal for the teeth and jaw to become sore during the first few weeks of treatment. It’s common to feel pain or discomfort as the teeth adjust to the headgear.
Dentists recommend taking ibuprofen or over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers when needed. Typically, the pain goes away after a few days.
Call or visit an orthodontist if you or your child experiences any of the following possible but rare side effects:
There are three main benefits of wearing orthodontic headgear, including the following:
Headgear can cost anywhere between $1,000 and $9,000. Several factors affect the price, including the length of treatment and the specific device needed.
Speak with an orthodontist to determine a payment plan, insurance coverage, and treatment times.
Several varieties of headgear exist to treat the following bites and misalignments:
Common headgear appliances include:
A cervical pull headgear treats class II malocclusions (overbites and overjets). The device is worn to move the front teeth and jaw backward and closer to the lower teeth.
Class II malocclusions include:
Cervical pull headgear is typically used to correct an excessive horizontal overbite in children. However, adults who need help maintaining a proper bite and correcting tooth spacing after extraction can also temporarily utilize the appliance.
The headgear has three parts:
The face bow contains an outer and inner wire. The outer wire attaches to the elastic strap, while the inner wire attaches to a child’s mouth via two tubes cemented onto the child’s teeth.
The elastic strap is worn behind the head and neck to secure the headgear to the head and as an attachment point for the outer wires.
The neck pad ensures the wearer's elastic strap is comfortable.
Reverse-pull headgear treats Class III malocclusions (underbites and crossbites). The headgear shifts the upper jaw forward to align with the upper and lower jaws. Examples of Class III malocclusions include:
Reverse-pull headgear rests on the front of the face to pull the top jaw and teeth forward. Part of the mechanism sits on the chin, while the other sits on the forehead. These two parts are connected by a metal frame attached by elastics to a Rapid Maxillary Expander (RME) on the top teeth. The RME also serves to widen the top jaw.
A high-pull headgear is often used to treat open bites, a rare malocclusion affecting 0.6 percent of the U.S. population.
An open bite is a problem where the top and bottom teeth slant outwards. This slant causes a gap between the top and bottom teeth, making the teeth look “open” when the mouth is closed.
High-pull headgear is similar to cervical pull headgear, consisting of a wire that attaches to braces on the teeth. The difference lies in the strap that wraps around the back and top of the head, resulting in an upward pull on the teeth.
While orthodontic headgear is effective, it is often uncomfortable and considered unattractive or embarrassing. Therefore, your child might prefer one of the many alternatives to orthodontic headgear, including:
Headgear is an orthodontic appliance that treats jaw misalignment and bite problems. Specific types of headgear treat different bite issues.
Headgear can complement braces and speed up the orthodontic process. There are minimal side effects associated with wearing headgear. Because headgear can eliminate the need for jaw surgery later in life, the benefits generally outweigh the inconveniences.
The appliances must be worn for 12 to 14 hours daily for up to two years.
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