For the average self-conscious child, braces are bad enough. That’s why modern orthodontics offer less visible alternatives like ceramic braces, Invisalign appliances, and lingual braces that go on the inside of your teeth. But sometimes a child’s jaw needs more help than what braces can offer. Sometimes an underbite or overbite is so serious that it calls for headgear.
The way an orthodontic headgear works is by holding the upper or lower jaw in place and letting the opposite side develop out until both arches meet evenly. Because of this, it’s important to spot the problem early, when a child is still developing. Correcting an overbite doesn’t need to wait until the adult teeth come in, so the ideal time for headgear is four or five.
When you start correcting an overbite that early, the child usually won’t have to wear the headgear for more than around 12 hours each day, which means after dinner and overnight. That means they won’t have to worry about standing out at school or when playing with friends. But if the problem is serious or if you start the treatment too late, the headgear might have to stay on for up to 22 hours every day. That’s one major reason why orthodontists recommend that parents bring their kids in for an early exam.
Of course, there are alternatives to headgear. Most of them are less visible, but they’re also more expensive, so it’s up to you whether the tradeoffs are worth it. For one thing, you can always go in for jawbone surgery to extend or shorten the bone, but it’s expensive and comes with a long recovery period.
You can also get screw implants on the sides of your upper and lower jaw, and these implants can hold a lot more pressure than brackets on your teeth. There are also appliances like the bionator that encourage the lower jaw to grow out, which is another good way to correct an overbite, but it only works for as long as the lower jaw is growing.
As ugly as it might be, orthodontic headgear is a low-cost and proven way to correct bite issues, especially if you start young and stick with it despite the awkwardness and discomfort. Use yours properly and for the most part you won’t have to worry about it for more than a year.