Braces are a common sight, but some patients may require the use of different appliances to ensure a healthy, functioning bite and smile.
Orthodontic headgear may be used for patients who have discrepancies in how their upper and lower jaws have grown, resulting in a severe overbite or a deep bite. Patients wearing headgear will have wires inside their mouths, and straps that go behind the neck, chin or head to use as an anchor point to correct the bite relationship.
Teeth can be moved fairly easily through the course of braces treatment because the teeth aren’t actually fixed directly into the bone. Rather, they are held in place by what is called the periodontal ligament. By the use of the steady, controlled force applied by braces, the teeth can be guided through the jaw to their ideal locations.
But, to achieve certain movements, and to also ensure bite harmony, there has to be good anchorage. Headgear can be used for severe overbites or underbites in patients with jaws that are still developing to provide the anchorage needed for more difficult movements to ensure the jaw is in correct position to create the patient’s ideal bite.
Headgear is worn on the outside of the mouth, and is used to apply force to the developing jaw. Part of the headgear will be attached to the braces in the mouth, and then will use metal arches and straps to anchor it to the head. These forces will be transmitted to the growing jaw. A facebow can help pull the lower jaw back, and alternatively, a headgear facemask can pull the lower jaw forward.
Orthodontic treatment has become very advanced, and seeing an adolescent in headgear is not as commonplace today as it once was. However, headgear is still a useful treatment option for patients with severe malocclusions. The good news is, many recent studies have shown that headgear wear can be limited to about 12-14 hours a day, so patients don’t need to be self-conscious about wearing it. Instead of wearing it at school, they can opt to only wear it at home. Your orthodontist will discuss with you how and when you should wear your headgear to achieve the best results.
When we use headgear, we can achieve difficult tooth movements much more efficiently than if we use braces alone. It is important to remember that the goal of orthodontic treatment is not just to create a straight smile, but a healthy and properly functioning bite, as well. Headgear in conjunction with braces can ensure that patients with even the most severe malocclusions can have healthy, functioning smiles that last a lifetime.