One of the primary tasks of an orthodontist is to address issues related to malocclusions. Malocclusion is a fancy term for “bad bite.” To correct bite issues, orthodontists use orthodontic appliances (devices) to widen the jaw, make space in the mouth, and move teeth into optimal positions. One such appliance is the fixed pendulum appliance (FPA).
What Does a Pendulum Appliance Treat?
A pendulum orthodontic appliance helps to create more room in a patient’s mouth by widening the upper jaw and shifting a patient’s top molars back to provide more room for crowded teeth to move into alignment.
Pendulum appliance uses include:
- Treating Overbites. Overbites happen when a patient’s upper teeth protrude forward of the lower teeth. (A more common term for overbites is “buck teeth.”) With an overbite, the upper and lower teeth and/or jaws are out of alignment. This can result in potential trauma to the upper front teeth in active kids, difficulty chewing, and negative effects on the smile. In some cases, our orthodontists may use a pendulum device to help correct an overbite.
- Addressing Teeth Crowding. Sometimes, a patient does not have enough room in their mouth to fit all their teeth—a situation known as crowded teeth. When this happens, an orthodontic pendulum appliance may be used to help create space for the permanent teeth. After making additional space with the pendulum, our orthodontists hold the space created with a space maintainer (glued in retainer) until the patient is ready for braces or Invisalign to straighten the teeth.
- Making Space for Impacted Teeth. A tooth is considered impacted when it gets trapped under the gums or can only partially erupt. The use of a pendulum appliance is one way our orthodontists can help create space for an impacted tooth to fully erupt.
What Does The Pendulum Appliance Look Like?
An orthodontic pendulum appliance is attached to the upper part of a patient’s mouth. One part of the appliance is made of acrylic and lightly rests on the palate (roof of the mouth). Stainless steel wires and springs radiate out of the acrylic. The wires are attached to the biting surfaces of the teeth, while the springs are connected to stainless-steel bands (rings) that are anchored to the upper back molars with orthodontic adhesive. An expansion device is usually used with a pendulum appliance. The expander portion can be activated to help widen the upper jaw.
Pendulum Appliance Activation
Patients who wonder how to activate a pendulum appliance will be happy to hear that they do not need to do anything to activate the device (unlike banded and bonded rapid palatal expanders), unless expansion is also needed. Instead, our orthodontists will “activate” the pendulum one side at a time. During this activation period, patients may experience slight pressure or discomfort on the side being activated. Because patients are not required to activate the device themselves, results are usually quite effective because non-compliance is avoided.
How Long Do Patients Wear a Pendulum Appliance?
Although each patient is different, most of our patients wear a fixed pendulum appliance for approximately 6 to 8 months. Dr. Ryan Redford will monitor progress on a regular basis until the needed space is achieved. Once the appropriate spacing has been achieved, a space maintainer (such as a Nance arch) will be used to keep everything in the proper position.
What To Expect with the Pendulum Appliance
As with all orthodontic appliances, there will be a short adjustment period as a patient’s mouth adjusts to the device. Here are a few things that patients should expect once the device has been placed.
- Soreness of the cheeks and tongue for a few days after initial placement as the patient’s mouth adjusts to the device. To help alleviate this discomfort, patients can use pain relievers (such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen), rinse with warm salt water, and use orthodontic wax. Eating softer foods will also help.
- A patient’s tongue may get marks or indentations on it from the device. This is normal and will disappear after the removal of the pendulum appliance.
- Patients may experience excess saliva in the first few days. Again, this is entirely normal and will stop within a few days. This is simply the mouth’s way of reacting to something new.
- Some patients may experience slight speech impediments after the placement of the pendulum appliance. Again, this is normal as the tongue adjusts to the device. Speech will return to normal within one to two weeks. However, reading out loud or singing for 5 to 10 minutes a day will help to speed up the process.
If any of these symptoms do not resolve promptly or are causing pain or swelling, contact our office right away.
Caring for the Pendulum Appliance
When an orthodontic appliance is placed in the mouth, it becomes even more important to follow good oral hygiene practices such as regular brushing and flossing. Here are some actions to take to keep things on the right track with a patient’s pendulum appliance.
- Rinse vigorously with water after every meal. Even better, brush your teeth after each meal.
- Avoid hard, sticky, or chewy foods that can get stuck in or damage the appliance.
- Gently brush teeth, gums, and the appliance itself 3 to 4 times a day. In addition, use a water flosser to help remove any debris and prevent the formation of plaque. Particular areas to focus on are the bands, acrylic on the roof of the mouth, and springs. Using a fluoride mouth rinse will also help keep teeth healthy.
- Monitor the appliance regularly. If anything feels loose or broken, contact our office immediately.
For more information on the fixed pendulum appliance or our office, contact Burke & Redford Orthodontists at (951) 699-8011 to schedule a free orthodontic consultation. We have treated children, teenagers, and adults for over 30 years in Temecula, Lake Elsinore, and the surrounding areas. You can also schedule a consultation by clicking on the button below.