Why an Orthodontic Headgear?
An orthodontic headgear is considered to a be “high pull” when it attaches to the supporting areas of the head and is primarily used for jaw alignment. A heavy wire attaches to the headgear which inserts into a tube on the facial or outside of the orthodontic apparatus within the mouth. They are usually used to retard the growth of the upper jaw in order to eliminate overjet, which creates excessive overbite. This is sometimes also called underbite by the layman.
The headgear usually goes over the head and behind the head or neck. It retards or “holds back” the growth of the maxilla or upper jaw and hopefully allows the mandibular or lower jaw to catch up with its growth.
Orthodontic Headgear Lessens Orthodontic Treatment Time
There is also a reverse pull headgear designed to bring the upper jaw and teeth forward. It is typically used for correction of an under bite or when the upper jaw is under developed. The headgear portion of the orthodontic treatment may be limited and not be necessary in the full length of the orthodontic treatment. However, it can certainly make the treatment faster and may lessen the need for possible orthognathic surgery for mandibular advancement or maxillary reduction. This is huge in the overall treatment plan if surgery can be avoided.
Orthodontists use the headgear on children or adolescents who are in a stage of growth. It is not used on adults who have already achieved their growth. Once the bone is stable, the headgear is no longer used.
According to the American Association of Orthodontists, “headgear is the general name for a type of external appliance that applies specific forces to guide the growth of your face and jaw.” Orthodontists use them in special cases where your teeth need to move into a position that is not possible with orthodontic brackets, wires, or clear retainers found in routine orthodontic care. Because these braces consist of wires that engage both the inside and outside of the mouth, you or your child may feel like it looks strange. But orthodontists use it very often and for a common purpose–and it’s a necessary part of the beautiful end result.
2 Basic Functions of an Orthodontic Headgear
There are two basic functions of headgear. One is called a retraction headgear and its function is to retard the forward growth of the upper jaw. A protraction headgear, on the other hand tends to move the upper jaw forward faster than normal. It also stabilizes the lower jaw.
Orthodontists use headgear appliances mostly on young adults while they are still growing. This is to take advantage of the bones in the jaws before they are fully developed. It becomes almost impossible to achieve the same results without orthognathic surgery once the jaws are fully grown and developed.
2 Basic Types of Headgears
There are also basically two types of headgear. One is the facebow and the other is the J hook. The facebow has a single strap which attaches to the braces in your mouth and goes around your neck. The J hook also has a wire that attaches to your braces, and fits over your head as well as behind your neck. Actually, the headgear creates extra anchorage. This often decreases the amount of time the patient spends wearing braces and also improves the end result.
Extra Effort for End Result
During certain physical activities such as athletics, or when eating, the patient should remove the headgear. All treatments requiring headgear necessitate extra effort on the part of the patient. However, it is well-worth it once the braces are removed to reveal a beautiful smile with attractive teeth alignment.
Teeth are not solidified with the bone. There are thousands of tiny fibers which attach the tooth to the surrounding bone. Slow orthodontic movement of the tooth, not only stretches these fibers. It also “pushes” the bone in front of the movement and leaves a “void” in the bone behind the tooth. After the tooth is moved into its proper position, a retainer holds it in that position for a period of time. This allows the fibers to equalize and bone to be resorbed in front and filled in behind.
Orthodontists use the headgear for anchorage to move the tooth or groups of teeth as it is not pitting one tooth against the other. Newton’s Law of motion says that for every action, there is an equal an opposite reaction. A headgear negates that. An orthodontic headgear is used when extra force is needed to move the teeth and enhance the growth of the jaws.
Life Member of American Dental Association, Emeritus Fellow of Academy of General Dentistry, American Association of Implant Dentistry