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A Parent’s Guide to the Herbst Appliance

By October 25, 2022July 6th, 2023No Comments

Parent’s Guide to the Herbst ApplianceIf you’ve been told or you suspect that your child or teen has a large overbite, you might be worried they might need jaw surgery or even a headgear. The dreaded orthodontic appliance is still used at some practices, but, thankfully, not at Innovative Orthodontic Centers. Instead, when it comes to dentofacial orthopedics (guiding jaw growth), our American board-certified orthodontists use more comfortable, streamlined appliances, like theHerbst appliance. 

What is the Herbst Device?

The Herbst orthodontic appliance is used to guide jaw growth in order to correct a large overbite in growing patients. The stainless steel appliance is secured in place with bands that fit over your child’s upper and lower molars. 

While it depends on the patient, a palatal expander might be part of the appliance as well. The expander gradually widens the upper jaw to fit all of the permanent teeth. 

When is a Herbst appliance necessary? Our Shorewood and Naperville orthodontists use it when a large overbite is caused by a too-small lower jaw, especially if the patient also requires expansion.

How Does the Herbst Appliance Work?

The orthodontic appliance works by holding the lower jaw in a forward position. This encourages the lower jaw to grow. Once the lower jaw catches up with the upper jaw, the overbite goes away.

While some orthodontists only offer the Herbst appliances with braces, we’re a Diamond+ Top 1% Invisalign Provider here at Innovative Orthodontic Centers. Thanks to our clear aligner expertise, kids and teens can choose braces or Invisalign. While the Herbst takes care of the orthopedic correction, their braces or aligners will simultaneously straighten their teeth. 

How Long Do You Have to Wear a Herbst Appliance?

Every patient is unique and it will depend on your child’s needs and the complexity of their case. However, in general, most patients wear a Herbst appliance for nine to 12 months from the time we place the arms. 

What Should I Expect if My Child Gets a Herbst Appliance?

As with any type of orthodontic appliance, it can take kids about a week to get acclimated to having something in their mouth and it may feel bulky at first. Here are some ways to make the transition go smoothly:

  • If the Herbst appliance is irritating your child’s mouth or cheeks, you can use orthodontic relief wax. Have your child or teen break off a small piece of wax, roll it in between their fingers to warm it up and place it on the part of the appliance that’s bothering them. They can also swish with a saltwater rinse (½ teaspoon of salt dissolved in a glass of warm water) as needed to soothe discomfort. Once their mouth “toughens up,” irritation will go away. 
  • If talking and swallowing feel strange with the appliance, encourage your child to do these activities more often. The more they practice, the more quickly it will become second nature. Both swallowing and speech will go back to normal in a couple of days.
  • Some kids find that eating with the Herbst appliance is tricky at first. Sticking with soft foods for a few days can be helpful until they feel ready to resume their usual diet.
  • Ask your child to be careful about opening their mouth really wide, because the rods can slide out of the sleeves. If their Herbst appliance does come apart, use the directions we give you to put it back together. 
  • Problems with the Herbst appliance are very rare and in a week or so, your child will get used to it. However, if they do have any serious discomfort or you have any concerns, call our office and we’ll be happy to help!

Herbst Appliance

How to Clean a Herbst Appliance

To keep the Herbst appliance clean, have your child:

  • Brush their teeth regularly – Brushing teeth and the appliance after meals and snacks will prevent food debris and plaque from building up and getting trapped in the hardware.
  • Floss daily – Flossing at least once a day is a key to A+ oral health. It can be hard to floss around the parts of the Herbst appliance but your child will get the hang of it. 
  • Use a water flosser – A water flosser is able to get in the tight spaces your child may have missed when flossing around their appliance. While a water flosser doesn’t replace flossing with dental floss, the extra step is worth it. 

What are the Herbst Appliance Pros and Cons?

When the Herbst appliance is necessary, it can seriously make magic happen and our team has helped thousands of children get amazing results with it. That said, there are pros and cons to every treatment but trust us, the pros outweigh the cons.


  • The Herbst appliance can help kids with severe overbites avoid the need for corrective jaw surgery or tooth extractions later in life. 
  • The appliance can be customized with extras like a palatal expander to meet your child’s needs. 
  • It’s extremely effective. Just take a look at our Herbst appliance before and after photos to see for yourself. 
  • We can use the appliance with braces or Invisalign at our practice.
  • The Herbst device is safe and has been used for years.
  • Since the appliance is bonded to the molars, kids can’t lose it and its success isn’t heavily dependent on their compliance. 


  • The orthodontic appliance is most effective on patients who are still growing.
  • The appliance can feel somewhat bulky and can cause irritation during the first week or so. But, like we mentioned, the results make it all worth it!


Schedule a complimentary consultation for your child

Schedule a free consultation for your child with a Shorewood or Naperville orthodontist today! Dr. Manal Ibrahim and Dr. Christine Gin are experts in kids’ dental and facial development. They can determine if an orthodontic appliance like the Herbst device is needed and offer personalized treatment recommendations to bring out the best in your child’s smile. 


Dr. Manal Ibrahim