Orthodontic Appliances

What kinds of orthodontic appliances are typically used to correct jaw-growth problems?

Orthopedic appliances, also known as growth modification appliances, use carefully directed forces to guide the growth and development of the jaws in children and adolescents. Growth modification appliances include expansion appliances, Twin Blocks, Bionators, Frankel appliances, and headgear. For example, an upper jaw expansion appliance can dramatically widen a narrow upper jaw in a matter of months to correct crossbites and provide extra room for crowded teeth.

The process of dentofacial orthopedics allows Dr. Hendrix to correct jaw growth problems. This is often referred to as growth modification. The decision about which appliance to use for jaw growth modification is based on the individual problem. Usually, one of several appliances can be used effectively to treat a given problem. For the majority of appliances, patient cooperation is the critical element in determining the success of dentofacial orthopedic treatment. If your child would benefit from this kind of treatment, Dr. Hendrix will be happy to discuss with you which option is best for your child.

Common Orthopedic Appliances

Some of the more common orthopedic appliances used by orthodontists today that help the upper and lower jaws become more compatible include:

Palatal Expansion Appliance

A child’s upper jaw may be too narrow for the upper teeth to fit properly with the lower teeth, creating a crossbite. When this occurs, a palatal expansion appliance can be placed on the upper back teeth. This appliance can markedly expand the width of the upper jaw to make a broader, more attractive smile.


These removable appliances hold the lower jaw in a forward position to guide tooth eruption into a more desirable bite while helping the upper and lower jaws grow in proportion with each other. Patient cooperation in wearing this appliance is essential for successful improvement. There are many removable appliances used by contemporary orthodontists to treat underdeveloped lower jaws. They include the Twin-Block, Bionator, and Frankel, to name a few.

Herbst Appliance

For patients who have an underdeveloped lower jaw, it is important to begin orthodontic treatment several years before the lower jaw finishes growth. One method of attempting to correct an underdeveloped lower jaw uses an orthopedic appliance to reposition the lower jaw. Like activators, the Herbst appliance influences the jaw muscles to work in a way that may improve the forward development of the lower jaw. One potential benefit of the Herbst appliance is that it is bonded to the teeth during treatment so patient compliance is assured.


Space Maintainer

In addition to biting and chewing, primary (baby) teeth are very important because they hold space for the permanent teeth. When a primary (baby) tooth is lost prematurely, an orthodontic space maintainer is placed in the mouth to hold the space necessary for the permanent teeth that will come in later.

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