The Herbst appliance is a dental device which attaches to the teeth to correct issues with bite alignment. It is an option which replaces the cumbersome headgear which was used in the past for the same purpose. There are fewer issues with patient compliance with this innovative technology, allowing for a better range of motion with the jaws while reducing impacts to speech.
Most patients find that the Herbst appliance is comfortable and convenient to wear. Even though it is cemented to the teeth, which is a change from other functional dental instruments, it is also working 24/7 to promote oral health by maximizing growth modification.
The Herbst appliance is most effective when used during the significant dental growth periods between the ages of 9 to 14. When the device is placed initially, it moves the lower jaw forward into the corrected bite position. This process enhances the growth of the lower jaw, which adjusts the source of the malocclusion for the child.
If your dentist is recommending the Herbst appliance for your child, then here are the pros and cons of this procedure to think about today.
List of the Pros of the Herbst Appliance
1. It works rather quickly to correct dental issues.
Most children need to wear a Herbst appliance for 12 months or less. Some kids can have the device taken off in as little as nine months. It is monitored closely throughout this time to ensure the correct amount of expansion in the mouth is obtained to correct bite alignment concerns. This outcome makes the device one of the best ways to correct jaw discrepancy problems from a dental perspective.
2. It works with braces.
Kids who need several corrective dental procedures taking place at once can see results with the Herbst appliance because of its unique design. It works with both upper and lower braces without interfering with the alignment process. Although it isn’t designed to help straighten tooth alignment, this device does sometimes help bite issues because of the corrective nature of its design.
3. It requires very little maintenance during the necessary wear time.
The Herbst appliance is an incredibly durable product. There are only two things that kids must do when this device is used to correct their bite concerns. Routine cleaning will help to maintain the integrity of the product. They would also need to avoid foods that are either hard or sticky to prevent damage to the unit.
Because the Herbst appliance is in constant contact with the teeth, oral hygiene becomes a top priority once it is correctly placed. A daily fluoride mouth rinse is highly recommended with this device. Any foods which could promote tooth decay should be consumed in minimal quantities. Always clean the areas of gum tissue which are adjacent to the unit to avoid oral health issues.
4. It can be adjusted as needed to encourage correct jaw positioning.
The Herbst appliance can treat severe jaw discrepancies because of its unique design. Dentists can activate the device by inserting small pieces of tubing on the lower arms of the apparatus to encourage its corrective work. This task is usually completed every 2-4 months as the jaw continues to move into the correct position. If the tubing were to come loose, you would want to report this issue immediately to your dentist to prevent an adverse outcome.
5. It is more inconspicuous than headgear to correct this issue.
Because the Herbst appliance is contained in the mouth, there are fewer concerns with embarrassment or teasing when it is attached at your dentist’s office. It is seen as another form of braces by most students, which limits the teasing or bullying that occurs when the alternative treatments are used. Most people can’t even see this device when it is correctly installed unless the child opens their mouth widely to have someone look inside.
6. It is usually a painless way to initiate a bite correction.
Outside of the occasional poke from a needle to use an anesthetic when necessary, the Herbst appliance is a comfortable device that encourages the elimination of a child’s overbite. It is gentle and hardly noticeable once you get past the first few days of wear. Even when soft tissues become irritated with this unit because of rubbing issues, the mouth typically adapts within a month to eliminate discomfort.
7. It reduces the need for a future surgery to correct this issue.
Even if a child has straight teeth, that doesn’t mean the bite is correct. Bad bites are associated with a higher risk of cavities, tooth loss, and gum disease. When treating an overbite issue early with the Herbst appliance, it becomes possible to correct a problem that teens or adults would require surgery to have for a similar outcome. That’s why bite issues which are severe should always be evaluated by a dentist first. Despite the cost of this installation, it can save families from the risks associated with future corrective issues.
8. It can help with other health issues that some children face.
The Herbst appliance does more than create a correction for a child’s overbite. It can help with other potential health issues too. Some kids discover that their speech improves after this device is installed. It can help to reduce sleep apnea issues in some patients, while also promoting relief of TMJ pain and popping in others. You’ll see improvements quickly as well, so that makes it easier to tolerate the device.
9. It is a comfortable device to wear for most children.
Most kids feel a little pain after installing the Herbst appliance, but it is an issue which can be treated with over-the-counter medication. Warm saltwater rinses encourage the healing process as well. There can be issues with swallowing at first, so try to stick with soft foods for the first couple of weeks after the procedure. Use macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, puddings, and yogurt to encourage a return to healthy eating habits. Pay attention to the food restrictions given to you by the orthodontist to ensure that you’re not damaging the device in an unintended way.
List of the Cons of the Herbst Appliance
1. It can take some time getting used to the change in bite structure.
Most children can get used to using the Herbst appliance within seven days of its placement. The bite often feels different during the first week after installation, with chewing being the initial motion affected by the device. Song kids can develop sore spots where it rests against their cheeks or lips, but the soft tissues in the mouth typically get used to the wear patterns without much difficulty.
2. It cannot be removed.
The Herbst appliance is a permanent installation to correct the overbite of a child. Unlike headgear which could be removed, this device stays in place until the dentist removes it when the issue it treats reaches the proper level of correction. The force it creates encourages growth of the mandible, which provides the results that are wanted, but it isn’t going to come out. Once your dentist places it, the impact it makes will be felt for at least the next year.
3. It is usually followed by braces.
Although dentists can use the Herbst appliance with upper or lower braces, most prefer to correct the overbite issue first. Then they will address any tooth alignment issues that a child may face. That means you could be facing a year of wearing this device, then another 1-2 years of wearing braces before your child has a smile that doesn’t make them feel uncomfortable when they see it in the mirror.
4. It comes with a cost factor to consider.
The cost of a Herbst appliance, including the dental visits required to attach it, may cost upwards of $3,000 in some geographic regions. When you add in the cost of braces that could be $5,000 or more, then the price of dental health can be very high for some families. Insurance options may not be available for some either, which means the cost comes straight out of your pocket. A stage-one treatment on a policy with a one-time lifetime limit could clear out your entire benefit.
5. It can be a challenge to not fiddle with it.
Children who receive the Herbst appliance are often tempted to play with the new equipment in their mouth. Parents need to work with their kids to ensure that their tongue or fingers are not playing with the device. Some kids might try to move their jaw out of its new position because it feels uncomfortable. Try using a water irrigator as a way to clean stuck food particles from the unit to ensure that it works as well as possible. The end result of better teeth and an improved facial structure is worth the investment.
The pros and cons of the Herbst appliance involve a balance between the need to correct an overbite and the overall impact the device may have on the child. When compared to the traditional headgear that was used in previous generations, this unit offers a minimal visual impact while still generating maximum results. Although there are cost concerns and other disadvantages to consider, most families discover that the benefits of this investment outweigh its potential risks.