What Is Headgear Used For In Orthodontics?

Orthodontic emergencies can be alarming

While significant advancements in materials development, devices engineering, and scanning tools sophistication contribute to more esthetical, faster, reliable, and comfortable orthodontic results, unarguably, some traditional devices like braces remain at the forefront of orthodontic treatment for decades.

Furthermore, as old-fashioned as wearing metal braces may seem today, it may be even more surprising to learn that certain orthodontic treatments require orthodontic headgear fitted to the head.

However, there is nothing to be scared of. As we have mentioned, advances in the development of orthodontic mechanical parts allow patients more significant levels of discretion. 

In fact, there are few cases of high complexity and severity in which the orthodontist can recommend using orthodontic headgear. This article reviews what headgear is in orthodontics, its uses, and cases in which orthodontists may recommend orthodontic headgear, despite its seemingly old-fashioned.

What Is Orthodontic Headgear?

In 1822, Christophe-François Delabarre developed an apparatus known as occipital anchorage that worked like a harness that exerted pressure from outside the mouth to the teeth. 

Later in 1880, Edward Hartley Angle identified several malocclusion types and worked on the development of highly effective orthodontic appliances for the time. Finally, during the XX century, orthodontics evolved into the braces system. 

With the introduction in the seventies of lingual braces, a revolution in the form of more discrete appliances appeared in the market. However, despite these efforts, some cases still require orthodontic headgear.

In more practical terms, “braces and clear aligners” serve to straighten misaligned teeth, while orthodontic headgear adjusts teeth coming together and the jaw position. For these reasons, orthodontists use orthodontic headgear with braces.

In fact, patients often question what headgear for braces does. In short, orthodontic headgear is a complementary device that repositions the jaw and, in some cases, works with braces to move teeth, especially the molars.

Specialists use several orthodontic appliances along with orthodontic headgear to connect it with the braces, including metal and elastic orthodontic bands, coils, and hooks. All these devices synchronized exert strain on teeth and jaws.

When depicting orthodontic headgear as a device that should not cause worry, we mainly refer to the fact is usually recommended for children and teenagers because their jaws are malleable. 

Also, orthodontic headgear uses and types refer only to certain severe malocclusions.  

What Are the Orthodontic Headgear Types?

There are three orthodontic headgear types; each serves to solve specific malocclusions. Here we link each class according to the malocclusion types it corrects.

Cervical Pull Headgear

An orthodontist attaches bands to back teeth that connect with a U-shaped wire and a strap that goes behind the patient’s neck. A Cervical Pull Headgear serves to treat Class II malocclusions that refer to overbites and overjets.


This malocclusion occurs when the upper front teeth that are part of the maxilla overlap the lower front teeth from the jaw or mandible. In most cases, orthodontists recommend braces to solve overbites. 

However, there are circumstances in which severe overbites require braces and orthodontic headgear. Mechanically, the orthodontic headgear holds the upper jaw while the lower jaw displaces forward.


Overjet is a malocclusion where the upper front teeth severely protrude over the lower front teeth. The mechanics of orthodontic headgear acts to retract the protruding teeth back to a symmetrical bite. 

Reverse-Pull Headgear

Similar to a Cervical-Pull Headgear, it holds a wire connected to teeth and has a strap fitted over and behind the head. An orthodontist recommends a Reverse-Pull Headgear to treat an overjet, restraining further growth of the upper jaw in children. 

However, in some cases, adults might require using a Reverse-Pull Headgear after a tooth extraction affecting proper spacing.


In technical terms, this malocclusion refers to a Class III disorder. In these circumstances, the lower front teeth protrude or appear forward the front teeth. As stated before, in most of these malocclusions, orthodontists recommend using braces. 

However, due to its diagnostic severity, a patient might require orthodontic headgear as a compliment. Furthermore, conversely to an overbite, this malocclusion requires exertion of strain to move the upper jaw forward. 


It refers to malocclusion in which various bottom teeth don’t align with the upper teeth at the bite, and the jaw might appear with an asymmetrical shift to one side. A Reverse-Pull Headgear and braces move the upper jaw forward to improve teeth alignment.

High-Pull Headgear

This orthodontic headgear uses straps that attach to three points in the head: the top, back, and upper jaw, directing jaw growth and improving alignment. 

Open Bite

References to open bites are rare. This type of malocclusions affects 0.6% of the population of the U.S. and only in some cases might require a  High-Pull Headgear. An open bite occurs when the upper front and the lower front teeth slant outward and do not touch each other.

Are Orthodontic Headgears Still Used?

Today, there are many options to solve orthodontic malocclusions that compete, offering discrete and effective results. For these reasons, some patients wonder, what is headgear used for in orthodontics? And Do people still get the braces with the headgear?

For the first question, we introduced the types of orthodontic headgears linked with the cases they serve to treat. Secondly, despite the fact that headgears aren’t common, studies reveal they are crucial for treating some severe malocclusions.+

Contact Us for the Best Orthodontic Treatment El Cerrito & Richmond

Nowadays, however, Estes Orthodontics offers a handful of proven effective devices in helping our patients get a beautiful and healthy smile, including ceramic braces, gold braces, and clear aligners that provide outstanding results while being discrete and more comfortable. Dr. Estes and her team are committed to ensuring that patients and their families receive excellent care using state-of-the-art treatment options. We are all dedicated to creating beautiful lifelong smiles. Contact us for more information