When I was 14/15, my parents pressured me into getting braces and headgear. I always had a gut feeling about headgear. I read the information paper that the orthodontist gave me repeatedly, trying to make sense of the words: "This appliance is used when the upper teeth are too far forward. The headgear slows the upper jaw in its forward growth and allows the lower jaw to catch up simply by developing at its natural rate during the period of facial growth." It made no sense to me whatsoever. Slowing growth? That never sounded right to me.
As a singer, I was aware that the space in my mouth and throat is what allowed me to hit certain notes and if we were to reduce the space in my mouth, I feared what would happen to both my singing and the shape of my face. I disagreed with the orthodontist and his methods. But who was going to listen to a 14/15 year old girl? He was a man with a degree, and I was just a teenager with a gut feeling. Despite all of my worries, I went through with the treatment because of how much pressure I felt from my family.
I wore the headgear almost every night and slowly I started to see my face change. My cheeks became flatter. My bite was becoming more and more back in my face. And singing high notes became a struggle. I also developed an astigmatism in my eyes, something that I later discovered was due to my maxilla not being able to support my eyes properly. I also was not able to think as clearly, and I started having difficulty falling asleep, waking up and concentrating during the day.
All these factors bothered me immensely, but when I tried to explain it to the orthodontist, he simply would not listen to me. He just wanted to keep retracting. And so the treatment continued, until one day I simply could not take it anymore. I had my braces removed before the treatment was scheduled to be finished, and refused to get any sort of retainer because I didn't want to further restrict growth, and instead wanted my face to grow naturally. After looking for ways to reverse the treatment, I found Dr. Bill Hang.
I contacted Dr. Hang and flew to California with my family for one consultation. In that meeting, Dr Hang confirmed that my initial gut feeling about headgear was in fact true. He explained to us that the "headgear effect" is a flattening of the face caused by the reverse growth forces from the headgear. He also explained that the upper teeth never protrude, and almost every overbite situation are a result of both jaws being underdeveloped.
I then found an orthodontist in my area that could help me, and we began expanding my maxilla with a removable appliance. It helped my cheeks come forward again, and my lower jaw also came forward with it. My singing also improved, but it is still not what is used to be before headgear.
While I tried to fix it the damage that headgear did, I will never be able to fully undo what was done. I cannot explain what a toll this experience has had on my mental health. I'm not sure what this thing did to me. I'm not sure what it did to my brain and I sometimes wonder if stunting the growth of my skull affected my brain, because I still have so much difficulty concentrating. I believe that if orthodontists are going to be putting forces through the house of the brain, that they should understand exactly what they are doing. Always trust your gut feeling... orthodontics needs to change now. I really hope that retractive orthodontics come to an end and the methods of Dr. John Mew and Dr Bill Hang come into the light.