Friday, February 27, 2009

How Headgear Can Improve Your Smile! --Dr. Judith Okun

Hollywood has given headgear a bad rap, but in certain cases, it’s the best tool for a tough job. The result is a stunning smile that can’t be attained any other way. Braces are capable appliances, and regularly achieve excellent results when it comes to straightening teeth. But our area of expertise includes your face and jaws as well as your teeth. At Okun Orthodontics, our specialty is not only the straightening of teeth, but also guiding the growth of the jaws and face.

When there is a discrepancy in the growth of the jaws – such as when the upper or lower jaw lags behind the other in development – we may prescribe headgear to help the jaws grow together properly. In order to guide the growth of a jaw, its teeth must be anchored to a fixed point outside the mouth. Headgear anchors the teeth to either the head or the back of the neck.

In some cases headgear is used to hold certain teeth in place, usually to keep them from crowding into a space from which a tooth has been extracted. Again, an extra-oral anchor point is needed, and headgear fits the bill.

If we have prescribed headgear as part of your treatment, you may feel some soreness during the first few days of wearing it. The trick is to persevere and keep wearing it until your teeth acclimate. If you take it off, you’ll have temporary relief, but the soreness will reappear when you wear it again. If you wear it consistently, your teeth will get used to it and any discomfort will recede.

While you’re acclimating, we recommend taking Tylenol (Acetaminophen) to ease any soreness, and sticking to soft foods for a few days. You can also try decreasing the force on the headgear by wearing it on a looser hole for the first week or two, and then return to the setting that was prescribed for you. If your teeth stay sore for more than a few days, or are too sore to wait a few days, let us know. We can schedule time for you to use the electric medicine (Electro-Accuscope) in our office to eliminate the soreness.

Keep in mind the following when you’re wearing headgear:
• Be careful when removing headgear to avoid injury to your face, mouth, or eyes.
• Remove your headgear when engaging in activities that could jolt it loose, such as sports.
• Avoid any situation in which your headgear could be grabbed or jostled.
• Bring your headgear each time you visit our office.
Every patient is different, and everyone with headgear will have a different prescription for how often and how long it must be worn. The key is to follow our instructions precisely. If you wear your headgear as directed, your treatment will go more smoothly, take less time, and have better results. Give us a call at Okun Orthodontics and we can evaluate if orthodontic treatment is right for you.