Orthodontic Headgear: Outdated Option or Viable Choice?

by | Jun 26, 2023 | General Orthodontics, Orthodontic Treatments | 0 comments

8 min reading time

The world of orthodontics has always fascinated Jack, who’s heard a lot about braces and clear aligners, but he still has one question: Are people still wearing that funky orthodontic headgear? Jack has seen it in old movies and TV shows, but he doesn’t know if it’s still around or if it’s just a source of nightmares for kids with poor dental hygiene. Join Jack as he dives into the world of orthodontics to find out if headgear treatment is still making a positive impact on patients’ smiles!

What is Orthodontic Headgear?

Orthodontic headgear is like a special brace attached to your teeth with straps going around your neck or head. It’s sometimes used to correct teeth or jaw problems. Orthodontists use headgear when they need extra help getting the teeth or jaw into the right position.

Some headgear can help with an overbite or underbite, while others can help with crooked teeth or narrow jaws. The type of headgear you need depends on the specific issue you have. The first time you wear headgear feels strange and you might not think it looks cool, but you need to follow your orthodontist’s instructions carefully to achieve the best results. After all, the goal is to get a beautiful and healthy smile at the end!

What are the Different Types of Orthodontic Headgear?

There are a few different types of orthodontic headgear that can be used to address issues with teeth and jaws in a variety of ways.

Cervical Headgear Appliance

Cervical pull headgear is used to correct an overbite (that is, when your upper front teeth stick out too far in front of your lower teeth). With the neck strap, your upper teeth are gently pulled back into their proper position. The part attaches to your upper back teeth, while the strap goes around your neck.

High-Pull Headgear

If your upper jaw grows too much vertically and you have an overbite, you might need high-pull headgear. Similar to cervical headgear, it attaches to your upper back teeth, but has a strap that goes up over your head. You can use this setup to control both your upper jaw growth forward and upward.

Reverse-Pull Headgear

The reverse-pull headgear, commonly known as a facemask, is meant for underbites (i.e., where your lower teeth are in front of your upper teeth). In order to align your upper and lower jaws better, elastics connected to your braces pull your upper jaw forward.

J-Hook Headgear

There are several dental issues that may be addressed with J-Hook headgear, including overbites, underbites, and protruding teeth. Although J-Hook headgear resembles cervical headgear, it has J-shaped hooks attached to the braces.

Palatal Expander With Headgear

When your upper jaw is narrow, you may need to make more room for it. A palatal expander is a device that sits in your mouth and gradually widens it. There are some expanders that come with headgear, which provides additional support and helps control the expansion’s direction.

Woman wearing orthodontic headgear

What are the Benefits of Orthodontic Headgear?

Even though orthodontic headgear isn’t the coolest fashion accessory, it can benefit your teeth and jaws in a lot of different ways!

  1. An improved smile. Having a great smile is one of the main reasons people wear headgear, and once you’re done with your treatment, you’ll be able to flaunt the smile you’ve always been dreaming of.
  2. Better, easier chomping. Biting, chewing, and enjoying your favorite foods is much easier when your teeth and jaws are in the right position. You won’t have to struggle with chewy pizza crust or crunchy apples anymore!
  3. Improved clarity of speech. There are times when wonky teeth and jaws make it difficult to pronounce certain words or sounds. Headgear can help you speak more naturally and clearly!
  4. Improved dental health. When your teeth are aligned properly, it’s easier to keep them clean and healthy. The result is fewer cavities, fewer gum diseases, and a healthier mouth!
  5. Better jaw function. You can use headgear to correct issues with your jaw, such as overbites and underbites. As a result, your jaw muscles and joints will be less stressed, reducing pain and additional issues.
  6. A greater sense of self-confidence. It is no secret that a great smile can boost your self-confidence. It won’t take long for you to show off your pearly whites once your headgear has achieved its goal!


What Conditions Can Orthodontic Headgear Help Address?

Orthodontic headgear can address a variety of dental and jaw-related conditions! For instance, it can correct overbite, which occurs when the upper teeth protrude too far in front of the lower teeth. Similarly, it can fix underbites, which occur when the lower teeth are positioned in front of the upper teeth.

Orthodontic headgear can also address narrow upper jaws. In this case, a palatal expander is used with headgear to gradually broaden the jaw and improve bite. By working in conjunction with braces, headgear can also help with issues related to teeth’s position, such as teeth that are too far forward or backward.

In addition, orthodontic headgear helps control the growth and development of children’s and adolescents’ jaws. In addition to improving the appearance of the teeth and smile, headgear also improves overall oral health, chewing function, and speech clarity by guiding the jaws into proper alignment!


What are the Side Effects of Wearing Orthodontic Headgear?

It might take some getting used to wearing orthodontic headgear, and there may be some side effects along the way. However, most of the discomfort is normal and easy to handle.


Initially, you may feel pressured, sore, or even pain when wearing headgear. After a few days, the discomfort should ease up, but if it is really irritating you, over-the-counter pain relievers can help. This is normal as your teeth and jaws adjust to the new forces.

Trouble Sleeping

In the beginning, sleeping with headgear will seem strange and may make it difficult for you to find a comfortable position. Be patient and use a soft pillow or cushion to support your head and neck, and you’ll ease into it eventually.


It is possible for your headgear’s straps and metal parts to rub against your skin, which will cause irritation and redness. You can treat the irritation by applying orthodontic wax, silicone, or soft cloth to the areas that bother you. If the irritation persists, however, contact your orthodontist.

Difficulty Speaking and Eating

The first time you wear headgear, talking and eating might be difficult, but don’t worry — most people get used to it quickly. Just remember that practice makes perfect!

Feeling Self-Conscious

There’s no doubt that headgear isn’t exactly a fashion statement, so you might feel self-conscious while wearing it, especially in public. But, just remember that it’s temporary, and the result will be an amazing smile in the end. Also, you’re not alone — numerous people wear headgear at some point in their lives!

What to Avoid When Wearing Orthodontic Headgear

To ensure your treatment goes smoothly, you should avoid the following when wearing orthodontic headgear:

  1. Taking shortcuts with wear time. Wearing your headgear for as many hours as your orthodontist recommends is critical, despite how irritating it may be. The more you wear it, the faster your teeth and jaw will progress!
  2. Consuming hard or sticky foods. Keep your headgear and braces protected by avoiding hard, sticky foods such as caramels, gum, popcorn, and hard candy. Instead, opt for soft foods that will not harm your gear.
  3. Taking part in rough sports. It’s best to remove your headgear when playing contact sports or activities that can cause facial injuries. Talk to your orthodontist about getting a mouthguard to protect your teeth.
  4. Neglecting your oral hygiene. If you wear a headgear, making sure your teeth are clean is even more important. Ensure you brush and floss regularly to avoid cavities, gum disease, and other dental issues.
  5. Keeping quiet about issues. Contact your orthodontist if you feel something isn’t right or you’re experiencing pain or discomfort that won’t go away. They can assist you with adjusting your headgear or offer advice.
  6. Playing with your headgear. Messing around with your headgear can damage it, slow down your treatment, or even cause injury. So, resist the urge to play with the straps or parts that connect to your braces.

Young girl wearing orthodontic headgear

Loudoun Orthodontics is Ready to Help You With Your Orthodontic Treatment!

Contact Loudoun Orthodontics if you think braces are the solution to your dental woes. Whether you want to learn more about the benefits of braces or have questions about the process, use our live chat or call (703) 858-0303 or send us a message through our contact us page to connect with our friendly staff today to book a complimentary orthodontic consultation! Our office, located at 19465 Deerfield Ave, Suite 304, Leesburg, VA 20176, proudly serves not just Loudoun County but also the Greater Washington DC area. So, if you’re residing in Ashburn, Lansdowne, or Sterling, and are looking for one of the best orthodontists in Virginia, don’t hesitate to visit our office! We also invite you to keep up with our blog to get answers to many of the frequently asked questions about maintaining sparkling oral health, and follow us on Facebook and Instagram to become a part of our smiling community!



  1. Whelan, Corey. “What Is Orthodontic Headgear and How Does It Help Straighten Teeth?” Healthline, Healthline Media, 13 Sept. 2019, www.healthline.com/health/dental-and-oral-health/headgear#what-its-like. Accessed 1 May 2023.
  2. “3 Types of Orthodontic Headgear & Conditions They Fix.” NewMouth, 2023, www.newmouth.com/orthodontics/treatment/headgear/. Accessed 1 May 2023.
  3. “Guide to Headgear Braces: Pros, Cons, Alternatives.” NWPH Dental Health, 6 Jan. 2022, www.nwph.net/headgear-braces. Accessed 1 May 2023.