Orthodontic headgear braces are appliances or mouthpieces that are worn partially outside the mouth and fit onto a head strap as part of an orthodontic treatment. Orthodontists use these appliances to help move teeth more effectively and often quicker than standard braces alone. They can also aid in the process of realigning the jaw, thus avoiding more costly and invasive bone surgery.
Headgear is often used before braces are placed on the teeth to help align the jaw and provide adequate spacing between teeth for successful teeth movement during the braces stage. This guide provides additional information on orthodontic headgear types, use, specifications, and cost.
What Is Headgear for Braces Used for?
In cases of severely crooked teeth or poorly aligned jaw bones, an orthodontist may recommend orthodontic headgear as a necessary part of the overall orthodontic treatment. Sometimes, braces alone will not correct these problems and secondary mouthpiece appliances can make the difference in achieving a beautiful smile in a reasonable amount of time.
Some of these issues include when teeth are overly crowded and more space in the mouth is necessary, there is an excessive underbite or overbite, or the jaw is incorrectly positioned, causing a crossbite. While a single appliance may address one of these issues, only headgear can address multiple issues. Additionally, headgear can help reduce the time frame of the orthodontic treatment by addressing multiple issues simultaneously.
Orthodontic Headgear Types
1. Cervical Pull Headgear
Cervical headgear may also be referred to as Class II orthodontic headgear, or retraction headgear braces. It is used when the teeth need to be pulled back and provide additional room for the teeth to move into correct position.
This type of headgear has a thick wire in the shape of a U or a W and fits into bands that are attached to the molars in the back of the mouth. The thick wire hooks onto a strap on the headgear that fits around the back of the neck, where the cervical vertebrae bones are found, thus the meaning in the name of the orthodontic headgear. With pressure applied to the bones in the back of the neck, the headgear can successfully move the teeth into proper position.
2. High-pull Headgear
As with the cervical headgear, high-pull headgear is also part of the Class II headgear family, or retraction headgear braces. It also includes a wire that attaches to the back of the mouth into bands placed on the back molars or onto the brackets of braces that have already been placed on the teeth. This type of headgear may be worn before or during the braces treatment, or during both stages of treatment.
The thick wire of the high-pull headgear attaches to straps around the back and top of the head, forming a J Hook design. This headgear placement pulls the teeth and jaw upward to stop the upper jaw bone from continuing to grow and help correct the positioning of the jaw bone. The high-pull headgear also helps correct cases of an open bite, referring to when the front teeth do not meet due to misalignment of the jaw.
3. Reverse-pull Headgear
The reverse-pull headgear is a Class III headgear brace, and is also referred to as a protraction orthodontic headgear. It is also sometimes called a facemask headgear because of the placement of the headgear’s straps on the face. It has one or more straps that fit over the chin or forehead and attach to a vertical thick wire frame that is fitted inside the mouth. By applying pressure on the front of the face, the headgear can move teeth forward and correct issues such as an underbite.
Orthodontic Headgear Cost
Orthodontic treatment can be very expensive, often ranging in price from $2,000 for minor teeth adjustment to well over $8,000 for more invasive teeth and jaw correction. The upper end of the cost scale is often where orthodontic headgear will be part of the treatment and care plan. While the cost of the headgear may vary according to the type and duration of required wear, it is usually included in the overall price of the orthodontic care rather than paid for separately.
Those with dental insurance that includes orthodontia care may receive up to a $1,000 benefit toward the overall treatment. Those without dental insurance may find a dental discount plan that includes orthodontia care, providing a discount of typically 20% off the overall treatment cost. Some orthodontists will also offer payment plans to help spread the total or remaining cost after these benefits and discounts out over the course of the treatment, making monthly payments more affordable compared to large lump sum payments.
Orthodontic headgear braces can effectively address severe teeth spacing and jaw alignment issues. They are especially effective in correcting multiple issues of the mouth at the same time, thereby decreasing the overall length of the orthodontic treatment. There are multiple types of orthodontic headgear out there, and a trained orthodontist specialist will suggest the best course of treatment.
The cost of the headgear is typically included in the overall orthodontic treatment fee, but dental insurance or dental discount plans may help reduce the total out-of-pocket cost incurred by the patient. The remaining balance of the orthodontic treatment can often be paid in monthly installments to help with the affordability of care. If you have any experiences with wearing headgear braces, we encourage you to share them donw below.