Sometimes braces alone aren’t enough to move teeth into a better position, or correct a problematic bite or misaligned jaw growth. In those situations, one of our practice’s trusted orthodontists may recommend the use of special appliances, such as orthodontic headgear. Orthodontic headgear is worn partly outside the mouth and applies just enough force to move the teeth properly and guide your face and jaw growth.
Types of Headgear
There are several types of orthodontic headgear; each is designed to work best in a specific situation. Whether you visit our Jacksonville, Morehead City, or Havelock office, your orthodontist will design a treatment program to address your individual needs, and select the most appropriate type of headgear to meet those needs. In general, there are three main types of headgear:
- Reverse-Pull / Facemask
Cervical-Pull & High-Pull Headgear
Cervical-Pull headgear has a U-shaped wire that attaches to the bands on your back teeth and a strap that is worn behind your neck. High-pull headgear is similar, but it also has a wire connecting to the teeth and a strap that goes behind and over the head.
Both types of headgear are typically used to correct an excessive horizontal overbite (an “overjet”) in children by holding back the growth of the upper jaw. These appliances can also be used for adults who need help maintaining a proper bite and correcting tooth spacing after tooth extraction. Generally, these types of headgear are meant to be worn 12 – 14 hours a day.
Reverse-Pull / Facemask Headgear
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. The appliance 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 about 14 – 16 hours a day.
The Outcome Depends on You
Whatever type of headgear you’re wearing, there are some important things to remember:
- In order for it to be effective, you must follow your orthodontist’s instructions for wearing your headgear. That means putting the appliance on each day for the time specified.
- If you are supposed to wear headgear while sleeping and you forget to put it on 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 when wearing orthodontic headgear. Fortunately, if you wear it faithfully, the discomfort generally goes away in a few days. Your orthodontist may recommend 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, check to see if the anchor band on your first molar (the one the headgear attaches to) has come loose.
- If your headgear suddenly seems to not fit correctly, it could be a sign of a problem. In that case, contact one of our offices in Jacksonville, Morehead City, or Havelockright away.
Maintain Your Headgear — Maintain Your Oral Health
To keep your orthodontic headgear working properly, and maintain your oral health, it’s important that you follow your orthodontist’s instructions regarding appliance care and cleaning. It’s also vital that you learn to put headgear on and take it off properly and safely. And please remember to bring your headgear with you every time you have an appointment at our Jacksonville, Morehead City, or Havelock office, but leave it behind when you’re playing sports, or even horsing around in your living room.
Headgear for a Happier, Healthier Smile
Wearing orthodontic headgear may seem like a big adjustment, and nobody would deny that it takes some getting used to. But headgear is just one more way that your orthodontist can tailor an orthodontic treatment plan that gets you the healthy, beautiful smile you want. The teams at our Jacksonville, Morehead City, and Havelock offices want to work with you to achieve a common goal: a great smile that you’ll have for your whole life. So listen to your orthodontist’s instructions for wear and care of your headgear, and contact us today with any questions you may have!