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What you need to know about orthodontic headgear

September 5, 2023
What you need to know about orthodontic headgear

When you think of headgear, you might imagine the padded helmets footy players wear to protect their heads during a game. Or you might think of elaborate head pieces for a costume party. 

But did you know that there’s orthodontic headgear that can help perfect your child’s smile? 

These pieces of headgear are a fantastic way to correct tooth overcrowding and misalignment. It’s also an effective method for treating jaw misalignment issues, such as an underbite or overbite. 

So, if you’re curious about how these appliances can help your child’s mouth, then read on to learn what you need to know about orthodontic headgears. 

What is orthodontic headgear? 

A piece of orthodontic headgear is, as the name suggests, an appliance that you can wear on your head to help rectify your tooth or jaw problems. Children from the age of nine are the primary users of orthodontic headgear, as this is the age where the child’s jaw and bones are growing. So, if a child has a misaligned jaw or tooth problems, then wearing headgear during this time can help realign the jaw and teeth, which mitigates mouth issues when they’re older. 

But there are some cases where adults might need orthodontic headgear to fix their bite or straighten their teeth, such as after an accident that has impacted their jaw. Adults might also wear headgear if they’ve lost teeth for whatever reason, as the headgear can help keep their teeth in place in preparation for dentures or other dental implants. 

Orthodontic headgear is worn externally and attached to the head. There are lots of different parts to the headgear that an orthodontist will change depending on why a child (or adult) needs the headgear in the first place.  

What is headgear used for?  

An orthodontist may recommend headgear to correct tooth misalignment and overcrowding, as well as jaw misalignment. This is because the child is still in their growing phase and the headgear can apply pressure and force over a period of time to fix the problem. Headgear can also help create space between your child’s teeth, if they have overcrowded or overlapping teeth. 

Wearing orthodontic headgear early in life can help enhance your child’s profile and smile, while also preventing the need for jaw surgery later in life. 

To ensure that you and your child see effective results, it’s important that you help your child wear their headgear correctly. This includes learning how to take it on and off properly, as taking it off incorrectly can snap the bands or potentially hurt your child’s mouth. 

Though wearing headgear might be uncomfortable, and potentially painful, during the first couple of days or after the orthodontist adjusts the appliance, it’s important your child wears the headgear for the time specified by the orthodontist. Usually over the counter pain relief is enough to mitigate the pain and make the headgear-wearing experience more comfortable. 

What are the different types of headgear?  

There are different types of orthodontic headgear your child can wear, but it all depends on their jaw and tooth problems. Some types of headgear can be worn with braces (more on that later), but if it’s just jaw problems you’re looking to fix, then an orthodontic headgear is enough. 

Cervical pull headgear is designed to correct an overjet – which is the orthodontic term for buck teeth. The cervical pull can also be used to correct an overbite. This type of headgear has a U-shaped wire that connects to the bands of your child’s braces and has a strap that sits behind the back of your child’s neck. This type of headgear can help move your child’s front teeth and jaw backward so it’s closer to their lower teeth. 

Reverse-pull headgear is often used to correct underbites and crossbites. This type of headgear has a wire that connects to the child’s braces and a strap that sits on their forehead and chin – which are also connect by a metal frame. The reverse-pull headgear pulls the upper jaw and teeth forward so that the child’s upper teeth are properly aligned. 

High-pull headgear is used to treat a serious overjet or overbite. What makes this piece of equipment different to the cervical pull headgear is that it has a wire connecting to the teeth and a strap that goes behind and over the head, rather than on the back of the neck. This strap positioning helps hold back the growth of the child’s upper jaw, allowing the jaw and teeth to realign. High-pull headgear is also used for correcting open bites, which is where there’s a gap between the bottom and top rows of teeth when the mouth is closed. 

What does headgear do for braces?  

If your child’s teeth need correcting in conjunction with realigning their jaw, then an orthodontist might recommend that they wear braces with headgear. The orthodontist will attach the headgear to the braces as part of the active stage of the braces-wearing process. 

When these two orthodontic treatments work together, the headgear becomes an anchoring point for the braces and promotes a proper realignment of the child’s jaw and teeth, while the braces help straighten the teeth. 

Do orthodontists still use headgear?  

Orthodontists continue to prescribe headgear to fix severe cases of jaw and tooth misalignment in children. While some people may think it’s unnecessary for their child, waiting for when the child is older can cause more problems for their jaw and teeth down the line. Fixing your child’s dental problems while they’re younger allows the appliances to work with their developing jaw and bones, rather than against it. This can truly give them the best chance possible for a perfect smile. 

Help your child get their perfect smile 

Orthodontic headgear can help perfect your child’s bite and jaw alignment while they’re still developing so that they won’t have to go through jaw correctional surgery later in life. While everyone’s tooth and jaw needs are different, an orthodontist will examine what your child needs and develop a plan to ensure that they’re getting the best possible treatment. 

If you think your child needs headgear to help with their jaw or teeth alignment, then use our online orthodontist finder tool to discover an orthodontist near you. 

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