Is it time to consider a Herbst appliance?

There are many different issues that prompt patients to visit the orthodontist.  Some people have very crowded teeth, while others have too much space between their teeth.  Problems with the bite are also very common.   When a patient comes to Owl Orthodontics for an initial visit, we do a thorough exam to diagnose any problems and begin developing a treatment plan to provide the best possible care for that patient.  In some cases, we recommend a Herbst appliance.

The American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) defines the Herbst appliance as “A fixed or removable appliance designed to effect an orthopedic change of the mandible much like an activator.  The appliance obliges the jaw to function in an anterior position to stimulate sagittal correction of Class II malocclusions.  It is named for Emil Herbst.”

Herbst ApplianceWhat exactly does this mean?  Sometimes the upper teeth extend past the lower teeth.  This is a common problem and many people assume that the fault lies with the upper jaw, being that it juts out too much.  Although this is true in some cases, the problem may actually be with the lower jaw: that it sits further back than it should.  The lower jaw can catch up, but it needs help to do so.  The Herbst appliance provides that help.

It may be helpful to think of this as growth modification. “Growth modification (early treatment) is part of the first phase of two-stage orthodontic treatment of children with malocclusion (poor bite).  Growth modification is only possible when bones are still growing.  It is most effective during children’s growth spurts.

Just as you must avoid certain foods with other types of braces, you must also avoid them with a Herbst appliance.  Cold foods can cause the bonding material to freeze, while gummy foods, including candy, can cause the appliance to break or separate from the teeth.  Hard foods are also problematic because they can damage the appliance.

When you get a Herbst appliance, it’s important to give yourself time to adjust to it.  Your mouth will feel crowded at first.  Practice speaking, reading, and eating and you will gradually achieve a level of comfort with this appliance.

Please remember that good dental hygiene is as important as ever.  Be patient when you brush and floss your teeth.  It may be difficult and awkward at first, but you’ll get a little more comfortable with it each time you do it.  If you have any questions or want some help with figuring out the best way to brush or floss, please let us know.  We’d be happy to help.

Although different types of issues cause people to seek orthodontic care, it’s important to remember that all of these problems have one thing in common: they impair the ability of the teeth and jaw to function properly.  When these problems aren’t addressed, they can lead to additional problems.  In addition, they make it difficult to maintain good oral hygiene.  Whatever the issue, it’s important to address it as soon as possible.

Please contact us with any questions.