Headgears and orthodontic treatment

A common type of malocclusion, or improper bite, seen by orthodontists is a class II bite. It is characterized by the lower jaw being too far behind the upper jaw, the upper molars being positioned behind the lower molars, and too much space present between the upper and lower front teeth when biting down. The cause of this problem is often skeletal in nature, meaning that the jaws are what are causing the improper bite, and not the teeth themselves. It results from the upper jaw growing too fast compared to the lower jaw or, in most cases, the lower jaw not growing as fast as the upper jaw. This type of bite is quite difficult to correct and, if untreated, is not only esthetically unappealing but can cause problems in the jaw joints and musculature of the face.

Every orthodontist will have a different technique to correct this improper bite. A common tool still used by many orthodontists today is a “headgear”. This appliance typically attaches to orthodontic bands on the upper back teeth and is worn mainly at home and while sleeping. The appliance works by preventing the upper jaw from growing while the lower jaw catches up. The advantages of this appliance are that is removable, that is it can be taken on and off, and relatively easy to use. Also, because there are no fixed parts in the mouth it allows the patient to maintain a good oral hygiene. One disadvantage of this appliance is that it is not very appealing. Convincing an already self-conscious teen to wear this appliance is quite a challenging task. Another disadvantage of this appliance is that it requires absolute compliance in order to work. If not worn regularly its effects are not fully expressed. Finally, this appliance needs to be used when the child is growing. It is almost never used in adults. If treatment is not started at the right age the headgear may be useless.

The headgear is only one tool in the orthodontist’s hand to correct a class II bite. It is easy to use and very effective. It has been used for generations for a good reason. If used properly it can have great results.

Dr. Reza Salmassian is a Board Certified Orthodontist in Valencia. For any questions regarding this article or to schedule your complimentary orthodontic consultation please call 661-222-7444.

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