Your child’s dentist has recommended possible orthodontic treatment for your son or daughter.

Upon examining your child’s facial structure, bite, and teeth in our office, orthodontist Dr. Karen Reese may suggest a growth modifying appliance to correct one or more of a number of potential problems.

Reese Orthodontics in New Hope and Chanhassen, Minnesota, offers the latest advances in orthodontia available today. Dr. Reese was the first orthodontist in the state to offer the Herbst growth-modifying appliance, among other innovations.

What is the purpose of growth-modifying appliances?

Orthodontists recommend growth-modifying appliances to help ensure proper alignment of your child’s upper and lower jaw. Dr. Reese can correct the shape, position, or width of your child’s jaw with such a device.

What problems can growth-modifying appliances correct?

Growth-modifying devices correct the following problems when braces alone won’t be completely effective:

  • Facial Asymmetry
  • Teeth Crowding (without extracting teeth)
  • Cross Bites
  • Open Bites
  • Overbites
  • Underbites

Braces may be required as well as an appliance for some or all of the treatment.

Correcting bite problems with growth-modifying appliances

Dr. Reese may explain that your child is headed for a very large overbite, underbite, or crossbite. If your child has an overbite, their upper teeth are protruding too far and their lower jaw is underdeveloped. There may be no contact between their upper and lower teeth (an open bite).

If this continues, your child has an increased chance of trauma to their upper teeth because of the protrusion. It can also lead to abnormal tongue placement, which can affect sleep.

If your child has an underbite, their lower jaw and bottom teeth jut out past their top teeth. Their jaw becomes very pronounced, which affects their facial shape.

A cross bite of the front teeth means that one or more of your child’s upper teeth are ensconced inside their lower teeth. If a crossbite affects their back teeth, the upper row of teeth lie inside the bottom row. A crossbite can affect the facial symmetry of your child.

Children with large overbites, underbites, or crossbites are often subject to teasing, offensive nicknames, and subsequent self-esteem issues.

Did you know that 60% of your child’s facial structure is set by age 8, and is 90 percent complete by age 12? Your child has growth spurts during that time, so growth-modifying appliances are most effective when begun around the age of 6 or 7, when their jawbone is forming.

To help your child’s jaws and teeth align, Dr. Reese recommends growth-modifying appliances such as the following.


Headgear must be used while your child’s jaw is growing. For an overbite, the headgear applies pressure to their upper teeth and jaw. It reins in the upper jawbone growth. Straps at the upper jaw attach to the back and top of their head.

For an underbite or crossbite, your child has headgear with thin metal strips going from their forehead to their chin, on each side of their head. Rubber bands are joined to braces on the upper row of your child’s teeth, and the headgear applies pressure on their lower jaw.

Headgear can also create adequate space for your child’s teeth and help avoid extractions. Your child needs to wear their headgear about 12 hours per day.

Dr. Reese shares before and after photos of overbite and underbite correction with you and your child to provide motivation—your child can envision how their face will look at the end of treatment versus how it looks now.


The Bionator also corrects an overbite like headgear, but the bionator must be worn all the time, except when eating, cleaning their teeth, or playing sports. It’s similar in appearance to retainers.

Palatal expander

If your child’s upper row of teeth is too small and narrow, it collapses inside their lower teeth and jaw. When your child’s jawbone is still forming, their upper jaw can be expanded with a device called a palatal expander. The expander widens their upper jaw to match their lower jaw. It’s affixed to their upper teeth with special bands.

The expander works when you turn a screw that places gentle, continuous pressure on the sides of your child’s upper jaw. It stimulates more bone growth, which increases jawbone width.

Research concludes that growth-modifying appliances are very effective in correcting malocclusion, or misaligned teeth. Call Reese Orthodontics or book an appointment online for a consultation on how orthodontia can correct your child’s malocclusion and provide them with a brand new smile.

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