A Guide To Orthodontic Headgear
What is a headgear?
Also known as extra-oral appliances, orthodontic headgear helps to support the proper growth and alignment of the jaw while correcting bite problems. Dental headgear comes in different forms and is mostly used in kids with developing jawbones.
Headgear is different from braces as the patient wears them outside the mouth. This appliance is most times recommended for kids with a severely misaligned bite where the lower teeth do not fit properly with the upper teeth (a malocclusion).
Among the 3 classifications of malocclusion, headgear can help to correct a class 2 or 3 misalignment. Also, this orthodontic appliance can help to treat teeth overcrowding.
Types of dental headgear
- High pull headgear
This type of headgear can help to treat cases of overbite or overjet. The straps go to the top of the head from the upper jaw. This orthodontic appliance is used for kids that have excessive jaw growth. High pull headgear can also be recommended in kids with an open bite where the front bottom and top teeth do not contact.
- Cervical pull headgear
If a patient has an overjet (a type of malocclusion where the front teeth and top jaw protrude), a cervical pull can help to correct it. Your orthodontist may also recommend a cervical headgear for overbite which causes the jutting out of the top teeth. To use a cervical pull headgear, you have to wrap its straps behind your cervical vertebrae, or neck. This type of headgear attaches to your dental braces.
- Reverse pull (facemask)
An underbite causes the lower teeth to jut. Patients with this condition can benefit from using a reverse pull headgear for underbite which works by using rubber bands attached to the upper teeth braces.
Orthodontic headgear side effects – What to expect
Your child may have to wear the appliance for 1 to 2 years, so it’s normal if they experience some orthodontic headgear problems during that time. They might feel some discomfort as the pressure gets adjusted or deepened by the orthodontist.
But keep in mind that any orthodontic headgear side effects are most times temporary. You might want to speak to the pediatrician or orthodontist about the discomfort of your child. They will recommend some over-the-counter painkillers that can help soothe your child. Another way to avoid increasing the discomfort of your child is to watch what they eat since chewing could increase it. Make sure they ingest only soft foods after dental appointments and some cold food that could soothe their gums.
Patients are required to wear the headgear at least 12 hours every day, implying that your child may experience some challenges wearing it to school because they feel embarrassed. The orthodontic headgear also limits them from taking part in certain activities. But going through this problem is only temporary and helps to avoid the need for surgical correction during adulthood.
Watch your child at all times so they don’t take their headgear off sneakily. This will only affect their progress, causing them to wear the appliance for longer.
Orthodontic Headgear for Adults
In looking to correct a painful and severe overbite in adults, they might also have to get an orthodontic headgear. But it can be more challenging to do so and such patients will have to wear the headgear for a very long time. It’s also best if they can wear it for 24 hours every day.
But the feeling of embarrassment prevents many adults from wearing the appliance during work hours. Another challenge is the significantly longer time necessary to correct teeth problems in an adult jawbone. It is more difficult because the bone at this point is fully developed and more calcified. So, it will be much more tasking to move teeth around in adults.
Even if you didn’t get the chance to use a headgear when you were younger, we do not imply that getting them as an adult is a waste of time. We understand that you may not have had the time or financial convenience to get one when you were a kid. The reasons are different for many individuals but if your orthodontist recommends a dental headgear and you have the resources to afford one, then, by all means, get it. But be prepared to stick to the instructions of your doctor to ensure the best possible results.
Keeping your orthodontic headgear clean
As mentioned earlier, there are different types of headgear for overbite, underbite, or overjet and your orthodontist will determine what’s best for your condition. Regardless of what appliance you get, adequate care and maintenance are essential and your orthodontist will tell you what to do. But here are some general guidelines to care for your dental headgear –
- First, unlock the elastic strap from the bow to detach it when you want to remove your headgear. This helps to secure your eyes without straining the appliance.
- Learn to brush your teeth more often than you used to before the headgear treatment. I highly recommend a soft bristled electric toothbrush. You want to make sure you get rid of food particles lying around hooks and bands. I highly recommend a water flosser in addition to your normal dental routine. Water flossers have very beneficial especially with braces and headgear appliances. (Check out best water flossers).
- Stick to your orthodontist’s recommendations about flossing because there are specific areas you need to avoid so you don’t loosen the bands. (Check out benefits of flossing)
- Use toothpaste and toothbrush to brush the facebow parts in your mouth. You can also use antibacterial soap to wash metal parts but ensure you rinse well.
- You don’t have to wash the straps and other headgear parts too often. You can take a damp cloth and wipe them if you notice stains. Your orthodontist will also teach you to clean your headgear.
A Word From Toothbrush Life
Failure to correct misaligned teeth increases the risk of suffering other health conditions like temporomandibular joint disorder and sleep apnea. It may be hard for children to accept the orthodontic headgear but do all you can to get your child to comply if your orthodontist considers the appliance necessary. Get your child to understand that if they stick to the instructions while using the headgear, they’ll no longer have to wear it after a while.
Kelly Hancock, RDH
Kelly is a registered dental hygienist and oral health care provider. She is passionate about oral hygiene and encourages people to achieve optimal oral health. She has been working in the dental profession for 16 years and worked in many different roles in the dental industry. Kelly is currently a pediatric dental hygienist specializing in children’s dentistry. She is committed to helping others with their oral health care issues and helping others achieve a smile they love.