What is a Herbst&Reg; Appliance?

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  • Written By: Erin Oxendine
  • Edited By: S. Pike
  • Last Modified Date: 25 February 2020
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A Herbst® appliance is an orthodontic device used to treat bite alignment. The appliance applies pressure to the lower jaw, slowly correcting the problem. It is usually worn for a period of several months to a year and half. Many patients wear this simultaneously with braces as part of a treatment plan.

Invented in 1904 by Doctor Emil Herbst, the Herbst® appliance was used until the early 1930s, at which time many orthodontists quit using it in favor of using braces alone. Over the next 30 years, more patient-friendly versions of the appliance were developed, and by the early 1970s, many orthodontists recommended the Herbst® appliance again to correct the upper and lower jaw line in their patients. A protruding jaw line can cause the teeth to push forward and not meet properly in the front or back. Not only can this result in speech problems, but if not treated, the protrusion may result in a slight facial deformity.

Doctors install the Herbst® appliance by first inserting the main components, which consist of stainless steel crowns that cover the four main back teeth. Metal rods are then placed on the sides of the back teeth, connecting the lower and top crowns. This allows the mouth to open and move side to side but keeps the jaws from returning to their old position. The rods and crowns slowly align the jaw during the specified time period during which the person has to wear the contraption.


Individuals who wear this device may experience some pain and discomfort the first few days after the Herbst® appliance is placed on the teeth. The appliance may also make the gums and tongue sore. Orthodontists advise patients to use dental wax and a soothing numbing gel to help with irritation. Many people also find that it is hard to talk initially after getting this device put on their teeth. After about a week or so, patients generally become accustomed to having the appliance in their mouth.

On occasion, the Herbst® appliance may become loose and the rods could pop out. Sometimes the rod can easily be popped back in place if it has only come off the groove. If the rod has popped out completely, the orthodontist will need to reattach the piece. Athletes who have this appliance typically have to wear special mouth guards to protect the appliance from being jostled in the mouth.


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Post 3

I had braces when I was younger, and so I can imagine how painful Herbst appliance problems could be. It's amazing how much one small rough spot can irritate your mouth!

As the Herbst appliance sounds pretty sizable, I imagine there is a lot of room for rough spots and for things to pop out. As the article said, it's probably a good idea for anyone with this appliance to keep some dental watch and numbing spray around.

From my experience, if you're going to have a problem with your orthodontia, it will probably be in the middle of the night when your dentist isn't available. So it's good to be prepared!

Post 2

@Azuza - I had some orthodontic work done when I was younger, and I think it's all pretty unpleasant, whether you have a Herbst orthodontic appliance or something else. Also, a Herbst appliance doesn't any more visible than a full set of braces, that's for sure!

However, I have to say, I've never known anyone with a Herbst appliance. I grew up in the 90s, so maybe they weren't too popular then? Most people I knew either had braces or some kind of palate expander, and occasionally a headgear.

Either way, getting the orthodontic work done is a lot better than living with jaw and tooth problems your whole life!

Post 1

I had a lot of orthodontic work done when I was younger. I had braces, an arch wire, and a lip bumper. But I never had to have a Herbst dental appliance, thank goodness.

It sounds like this contraption would be pretty visible. I mean, it covers up the four back teeth on each side of the upper and lower jaw. That means you would have metal covering 16 of your teeth! That's a lot.

Plus, it sounds like it would be easy to get food stuck in and around a Herbst appliance, even if it was put in the right way.

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