Aside from the obvious benefits of orthodontic treatment, like increased confidence and ease of hygiene, another benefit is not so obvious: improved jaw function. If your child has an overbite, simple treatment with braces will not correct the problem. The Herbst appliance, usually in conjunction with braces, is used to help the lower jaw develop in a forward direction. This eventually leads to an ideal bite. Left untreated, an improper bite may threaten the long-term health of your child's teeth, gums, and jaw.
A Herbst appliance is fixed to your child's molars. It includes a metal tube that connects the upper and lower jaw. By adjusting the tube, your orthodontist is able to control the lower jaw's position in relation to the upper teeth. Typical treatment time with a Herbst appliance is 12 months, though this may vary depending on your child's unique needs.
Herbst vs. Headgear
Headgear and the Herbst appliance can both be used to treat Class II malocclusions, in which the upper jaw is more forward when compared with the lower jaw. At our office, we take pride in the fact that we are highly expierenced working with both appliances! It is important to understand that the mechanisms by which headgear and the Herbst appliance work during orthodontic treatment vary and each patient has unique treatment needs. As a result, there are specific indications and benefits for use of one appliance over the other.
One of the main differences between the Herbst appliance and headgear is that the Herbst appliance is securely fastened to your child's teeth, while headgear is removable. To be truly effective, headgear must be worn between 10 to 14 hours per day. For some patients, this may pose a problem. Since the Herbst appliance is not removable, you won't need to keep track of how many hours per day your child wears it. If compliance may be an issue, the Herbst appliance may be an alternative treatment option.
Adjusting to a Herbst Appliance
Muscle Tenderness – When your child first gets his or her Herbst appliance, there may be some overall muscle tenderness and soreness of the teeth. As your child's mouth adapts to the appliance, the soreness should fade.
Tissue Irritation – Because the Herbst appliance is metal, it may cause some slight tissue irritation, especially on the lower gums. It will take time for your child's mouth to adapt. Until it does, dental wax can help to ease the irritation.
Diet – Eating softer food will help with any muscle soreness, especially during the first week or two after getting the appliance. It is also important to eliminate sticky foods, like candy and gum, or hard, crunchy food, which can damage the appliance and lengthen treatment time. Another recommendation for our patient's with the Herbst appliance is to eat slowly, especially after adjustment appointments when getting used to the new position of your lower jaw.
If you have any questions regarding your child's treatment with the headgear or the Herbst appliance, do not hesitate to contact our office or set up a consult appointment with one of our doctors. They would be more than willing to help answer your questions!