Everything to Know About the Herbst Device

What is a Herbst Device?

The Herbst device is an orthopedic appliance used to correct overbites caused by size differences between the upper and lower jaws. It acts like an artificial joint and is attached to all of the first molars with a dental cement. By attaching the upper appliance to the lower appliance with metal arms on both sides, the Herbst is able to place a constant, light, forward pressure on the lower jaw creating an orthopedic force that can influence growth. Over time, this results in a more forward permanent position of the lower jaw creating a stable, healthy bite and a more balanced facial profile. The Herbst device is a more conservative alternative to invasive alternatives like dental extractions or orthopedic surgery and unlike headgear, it is easy to wear, not noticeable, and only rarely affects the wearer’s speech. The Herbst appliance can be used on adults but it is most frequently recommended for kids and young teenagers to help guide natural growth into a healthier bite and more balanced facial profile.

Image credit: Bronsky Orthodontics

Does a Herbst Device Hurt?

The Herbst device isn’t painful, but there will be some adjustment in the first few weeks as the mouth adapts to a different fit of the bite. If the wearer does experience some slight discomfort, warm salt water or over-the-counter medication will help minimize it. Because the device adjusts jaw alignment, the patient may find it more challenging initially to chew and swallow. If this is the case, it’s wise to prepare by having soft foods on-hand that make eating easier and more comfortable for the first few days. Once the patient feels comfortable, they may resume a normal diet.

What to Expect With a Herbst Device

Here are some helpful tips on what you can expect from your Herbst device experience:

  • While wear time is determined case-by-case, you should plan on having the Herbst device for 10-16 months.
  • Expect visits to your orthodontist about every 6 weeks for checkups and adjustments to the device.
  • It takes around 1-2 weeks to get used to the feeling, during which time you may experience tenderness.
  • Speech is rarely affected negatively, but does improve in many cases as the front teeth move closer to a normal relationship.  
  • Occasionally, the metal can rub against the inside of your cheeks and cause soreness. Your doctor will recommend remedies and provide dental wax to alleviate the irritation.
  • Stay away from chewy, sticky, or hard foods and — candy, gum, etc. and popcorn.
  • If a part comes loose or breaks, contact your orthodontist immediately!

How to Clean Your Herbst Device

The Herbst device is actually very durable and doesn’t require a stringent cleaning regimen. However, because the device is attached to teeth, it is easier for food to get stuck in them. It is important that you brush, floss, use fluoride mouthwash frequently and carry a toothbrush with you for use after each meal. Be sure to use a non-whitening toothpaste.

Herbst Appliance Before and After Photos