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What is Orthodontic Headgear? Will My Child Need It?

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young girl with headgearYou’ve probably seen people wearing braces your entire life, but from time to time, you may have spotted a larger, more complicated orthodontic device with thicker wires that extend outside of the mouth and go around the chin or back of the head. This type of appliance is generally referred to as “headgear,” and for many patients (almost always children), it’s able to reliably correct certain alignment issues in the teeth and jaws that can’t be handled with braces in Powell alone. If your child already needs braces, how can you know if headgear will be necessary as well? You can learn more about this type of treatment by reading on below.

The Basics of Orthodontic Headgear

Every orthodontic treatment uses the same basic principle: a small force is applied to the teeth, and this is what slowly shifts them into a more functional position. In order for this to work, the appliance has to be anchored, in other words, it needs to be stabilized so the teeth can be moved in the desired direction. Most of the time, braces are anchored using the back teeth because they are strong, stable, and enable the other teeth to shift without moving themselves.

However, in situations where there are very large spaces in the teeth, this anchorage might not be enough. If there is a sizeable gap between the back teeth and those in front of them, for example, headgear enables your child’s orthodontist to move one set of teeth without automatically shifting the other. This control leads to a better result and can prevent potential bite problems.

One type of headgear has straps that go behind the neck or head and is used to move the teeth back. Another kind has a strap that goes across the forehead or chin, and this enables it to pull the teeth forward. In addition to aligning the teeth, headgear can also guide the growth of the jaw and face to create a healthier and more symmetrical smile. It’s most effective when applied to patients whose facial bones haven’t fully set yet, i.e. children and preteens.

For parents who are concerned about their child feeling self-conscious about wearing headgear, most of the time, the appliance only needs to be used for about 12 hours a day, or just at night. With the proper use, headgear is not only able to accomplish things braces can’t by themselves, but do it relatively quickly as well, helping a child achieve their new smile much faster.

Will Your Child Need Headgear?

If your child has sizeable gaps between their teeth towards the back of their mouth, or if one jaw is noticeably underdeveloped compared to the other (causing a pronounced overbite or underbite), then headgear will likely be recommended by their orthodontist. This can only be determined after your child has been examined, however. If your child’s orthodontist does suggest that they use headgear, be sure to follow the doctor’s instructions on using the device. This will help it achieve the final result as quickly as possible.

While your child might not be thrilled about the idea of needing headgear, it’s just another tool that will get them closer to their beautifully straight and healthy smile, which they will certainly appreciate when they see it for the first time!

About the Author

Dr. Jeffrey Shirck is an award-winning orthodontist in Powell who has been named one of Columbus’ Top Orthodontists from 2011-2018. He’s ready to help patients of all ages achieve the stunning smiles they deserve, so if it’s time for your child to start braces, he would love to meet both of you and answer your questions. At a FREE consultation, he can let you know how long your child’s treatment will take and whether or not they’ll need headgear. To schedule this appointment, contact our Powell office today.