Common Orthodontic Terms

Appliance: Any device, either attached to the teeth or removable, that will move teeth, correct the position of the jaw or keep the teeth in their final positions when the braces are removed.

Archwire: A wire inserted onto brackets and attached with colored rubber bands or ties.

Band: A metal ring that is attached to the back molars.

Banding: The process by which bands are cemented to the teeth.

Bond: The attachment created by adhering a bracket or band to the teeth.

Bonding: The process by which brackets are attached to the teeth with glue.

Bracket: A small ceramic or stainless steel brace that is attached to the teeth to hold the archwire in place.

Breakaway: A small plastic piece with an internal spring that is used to provide force on a facebow.

Bruxism: Grinding the teeth, usually during sleeping. Bruxism can cause abnormal tooth wear and may lead to pain in the jaw joints.

Cephalometric Radiograph: A special standardized X-ray picture that can be used to measure alterations in the growth of skull bones.

Chain, Orthodontic Chain: A plastic chain that stretches and is used to hold archwires onto brackets and move teeth.

Class I Malocclusion: The ideal bite. The mandibular dental arch and the body of the mandible are in normal mediodistal relationship to the maxillary arch.

Class II Malocclusion: The upper jaw is too far forward or the lower jaw is too far back.

Class III Malocclusion: The lower jaw is too far forward or the upper jaw is too far back.

Closed Coil Spring (CCS): A closed metal spring that is used to maintain space between two teeth. This spring is set into the wire. We use this spring to maintain the space, if for instance a baby tooth fell out or if there are two teeth with brackets placed and one tooth between them that doesn't have a bracket yet.

Consultation: A meeting with an orthodontist to discuss necessary treatment and proposed treatment plans.

Crossbite: Upper posterior (back) teeth are in crossbite if they erupt and function inside or outside of the arch in the lower posterior teeth. Lower anterior (front) teeth are in crossbite if they erupt and function in front of the upper anterior teeth. A crossbite can be individual teeth or groups of teeth.

DDS or DMD: DDS (Doctor of Dental Surgery) and DMD (Doctor of Dental Medicine) are equivalent degrees, according to The American Dental Association. All orthodontists educated in the United States or Canada will have either a DDS or DMD after their names. Orthodontists have an additional two to three years of specialty education in an accredited orthodontic program after graduating from dental school.

Debanding: The process by which the bands that were cemented to teeth are removed.

Debonding: The process by which the brackets that were glued to teeth are removed.

Deep Bite: The upper anterior teeth excessively vertically overlap the lower anteriors.

Elastic (Rubber Band): These are used to move teeth in the desired direction.

Elastic Tie: A small rubber band that is attached to multiple brackets to move teeth into correct position.

Hawley Retainer: A removable acrylic and wire appliance used to stabilize the teeth after active treatment.

Headgear: Used in the upper arch to move the upper teeth back or to hold the teeth back.

Headgear Tube: The tube attached to the back molar bands where the headgear's inner bow is inserted.

Holding Arch: The archwire connecting the last two molars used to keep back teeth in place as permanent teeth are erupting.

Hook: The small attachments on brackets that hold elastics (rubber bands).

Impaction: Teeth unable to erupt into position.

Impression: A soft, gelatin-like material placed in a small metal tray that fits over the patient's teeth. The patient's teeth make an imprint in the gel, forming a model of the patient's teeth that is used to make appliances/aligners.

Interproximal: Refers to the area between the surfaces of adjoining teeth in the arch.

Invisalign: A modern alternative to traditional braces, the Invisalign System straightens teeth using a series of clear, customized, removable aligners.

Ligation: The process by which an archwire is attached to the brackets that are glued to the teeth.

Ligature: A thin wire used to hold the archwire in place.

Lip Bumper: A lip bumper pushes the molars on the lower jaw back to create more space for other teeth. It consists of an archwire that is attached to a molded piece of plastic. The archwire is mounted in the buccal tubes on the lower jaw, and the plastic piece rests against the lips. When a patient eats or talks, the plastic piece is pushed back, which in turn pushes back on the molars.

Malocclusion: This word literally means "bad bite." Malocclusion is a problem with the way the upper and lower teeth fit together when you bite or chew.

Mouthguard: A device used to prevent injuries. Mouthguards protect the mouth during a patient's participation in sports.

Open Coil Spring (OCS): An open metal spring that is placed tightly between two brackets that will open space between the two teeth. To help create room for a tooth that is erupting which otherwise might not have enough space, we will use this spring.

Orchestrate: Consists of plastic aligners that are custom-made and designed to gradually guide teeth into proper alignment. An orthodontist takes a scan of the patient's teeth that is then fed into the software application system, creating an aligner the orthodontist can print on his 3-D printer.

Orthodontics: The specialty area of dentistry concerned with the diagnosis, supervision, guidance and correction of malocclusions. The formal name of the specialty is orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics.

Orthodontist: A specialist in the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of dental and facial irregularities. Orthodontists are required to complete college requirements, graduate from an accredited dental school and successfully complete a minimum of two academic years of full-time, university-based study at an accredited orthodontic residency program. Only those who have completed this education may call themselves "orthodontists." Orthodontists limit their practice to orthodontic treatment only, unless they have training in another dental specialty. Only residency-certified orthodontists may be members of the American Association of Orthodontics.

Orthopedic Appliance: A removable, functional appliance designed to guide the growth of the jaws and face.

Palatal Expander: This devise makes your jaw wider.

Panoramic Radiograph: An x-ray that shows all the teeth and both jaws on one film.

Periodontal: Refers to the hard and soft tissue, or supporting structures, around the teeth.

Rapid Palatal Expander: An orthodontic appliance that is attached to the upper molars across the roof of the mouth that expands the upper arch by using gradual gentle force.

Retainer: A fixed or removable appliance worn after the braces are removed. A removable retainer fits onto your upper and/or lower teeth and holds them in their finished positions.

Separator or Spacer: A plastic or rubber part used to create space between teeth for bands.

Tie Wire: A small, thin wire that is twisted on a bracket to hold the archwire in place.

Tongue Thrust: This occurs when an individual's tongue pushes against the teeth when swallowing. Forces generated by the tongue can move the teeth and bone and may lead to an anterior or posterior open bite.

Wax: A clear wax is used to prevent braces from irritating the lips when they are first put on.

Wax Bite: A procedure used to measure how well the teeth come together. The patient bites a sheet of wax, leaving a bitemark, and the orthodontist looks at it to see how well the teeth are aligned.