What Is a Herbst Appliance?

Jason Prader

The Herbst appliance is a dental mechanism that is usually used on children to help the lower jaw develop in a forward direction. Herbst appliances correct overbites in young children before their mouths have fully developed.

Find out more about Herbst appliances from your family dentist.

The devices are usually not used in adults or children older than 13 years due to reduced effectiveness.


The Herbst appliance contains four steel crowns that are fitted to the molars in the four corners of a child’s mouth. The crowns fitted to the upper tier of the mouth are connected to metal cylinders, and the lower crowns are linked with tiny metal bars that point in the same direction as the lower teeth. Metal arms are also fitted to the lower crowns. These arms slide into the sleeves from the upper crowns when the mouth moves.


Some Herbst appliances are equipped with expansion screws allowing users to tighten or loosen the grip of the device. This widens the dental arch of the device and prevents teeth from being cramped too tightly together. Herbst appliances typically take nine to 12 months to correct moderate overbite problems. Severe cases may take longer to cure.


The bar fitted to the lower crowns can rub against the lip or cheeks when eating or talking, leading to irritation. According to the Kid Braces Web site, fitting cotton balls as a cushion for these areas for the first few days can reduce aggravation from the appliance. The metal areas of the upper crowns can also irritate the cheek area toward the back of the throat, but do not put cotton there because it could lead to choking or vomiting. However, applying dental wax in this area can reduce pain.

Speech Impairment

The Herbst appliance can cause problems other than mouth irritation. Your speech may be impaired because of the device. You may mispronounce words, and some people may not understand you. Practice reading or talking aloud to overcome these issues. Your mouth will eventually adapt to the device and relearn its old skills.

Drooling and Gum Pain

Drooling can occur during the first few days of the Herbst appliance being fitted. Swallowing as often as you can will help suppress drooling. Gum pain may also occur during these early stages. Rinse your mouth regularly with a mixture of a half-teaspoon of salt with 8 ounces of water to suppress the pain and keep your mouth cleansed.